"Jaime Escalante: Sensational Teacher" By Ann Byers.

956 words - 4 pages

Jaime Escalante: Sensational Teacher," by Ann Byers is based on the life story of Jaime Escalante, a new high school teacher in East L.A. in 1982, who decides to change the lives of his students by preparing them for an advanced placement test in calculus. I chose this book because it was a book I read when I was younger and I remember thinking that the teacher did such amazing things with the students. Now that I am about to occupy a similar position, I wanted to revisit the film and evaluate his methods based on what I've learned so far as a teacher and pre-service student. The book deals with the very timely issues of equity, standardized testing, funding shortages and the challenges of the inner city school environment.When the book opens, the socio-economic and cultural demographic of the area is laid out. Hispanic workers line the roads and although the area seems quite culturally alive - a mural exclaims "We are NOT a minority!"-- it is obviously economically disadvantaged. On the first day of classes, Mr. Escalante learns that he will be teaching math since the school did not get funding for computers. This crossover theme is carried throughout the movie, as music and phys-ed teachers teach full math timetables, and in many ways qualifies Escalante's success. Though he is not a math teacher by trade, Escalante does something that all the other teacher's couldn't do -- he rises to the occasion. His philosophy is simple: "students will rise to the level of expectations" (Menendez 1988). All he requests from them is desire. Escalante is successful in showing the students that they can get beyond the "barrio" which before they could not see past. He decides that they CAN learn calculus and volunteers to teach the class; he takes them on a field trip so they can see where math can take them; he leads them successfully through a college credit calculus exam that only a fraction of students nationwide can pass. But in his enthusiasm, Escalante exhibits a degree of devotion to his students that is threatening to the other teachers - they easily dismiss it as new teacher idealism and when he shows endurance, they tell him his expectations for the students are too high.And there are places where his fellow teachers, if so inclined, might take serious issue with his means of reaching the students. Where his methodology is questionable is in the way he tries to get down to the level of the students. The movie depicts the interests of the students as lying somewhere between sex and violence. At one point, a student asks if they can talk about sex. Escalante responds, "If we talk about sex, I'll have to assign sex for homework" (Menendez 1988). From the back of the classroom you hear a voice saying that she...

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