Jaime Escalante, the math teacher who inspired the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, died Tuesday. He was 79.
Escalante died at his son's home after battling bladder cancer for several years, family friend Keith Miller told The Associated Press.
As a math teacher at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, Escalante completely transformed the school's mathematics curriculum and pushed his struggling students to master advanced math and science courses. At one point, Garfield High School had the fifth-highest number of advanced placement calculus students in the country.
"Teaching is an art form. There's a lot of practitioners and very few artists. He was a master artist," one of Escalante's former students, Elsa Bolado, told the AP.
Escalante's story inspired the film Stand and Deliver. Edward James Olmos' portrayal of Escalante garnered an Academy Award nomination for best actor. "Jaime exposed one of the most dangerous myths of our time — that inner city students can't be expected to perform at the highest levels," Olmos told the AP. "Because of him, that destructive idea has been shattered forever."
The cast of Stand and Deliver recently tried to raise donations to help Escalante pay for his alternative cancer treatments.
Escalante left Garfield High School in 1991 and taught at schools in Sacramento before retiring to his native Bolivia in 2001.
Escalante is survived by his wife, two sons and six grandchildren.