The late educator Jaime Escalante, whose work with inner-city students was the subject of a 1988 film, is being honored with a postage stamp this year.
Escalante, who died in 2010, was portrayed in the film "Stand and Deliver" by actor Edward James Olmos.
According to Roy Betts, a spokesman for USPS, the committee vets tens of thousands of suggestions every year. He said Escalante’s legacy in Los Angeles makes him an ideal candidate.
“He is, without question, a very deserving subject,” Betts said. “The legendary educator is well-known for academic excellence and working with inner-city youth to help them master calculus.”
The stamp selection process goes through the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee of 14 men and women appointed by the Postmaster General.
The committee chose to honor nine people this year including singer Sarah Vaughan, activist Richard Allen and actress Shirley Temple. The USPS will also sell stamps honoring Eid al-Fitr, which marks the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, and the Year of the Monkey, which the Chinese Zodiac designates as this year. One stamp even celebrates the 250th anniversary of the repeal of the 1766 Stamp Act, the tax measure that raised money for the standing British Army in America.
The Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee suggests who or what should be honored with a stamp to Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Betts said the Committee considers people from a number of disciplines and fields.
“This is one of the highest honors you can receive,” Betts said.
After emigrating from Bolivia, Escalante began teaching math at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. He focused his teaching on students from working-class families. He pushed his students with rigorous homework assignments and strict attendance policies. Because of his passionate and flamboyant teaching style, more and more of his students began taking – and passing – the Advanced Placement calculus exam.
In 1982, however, his students became the subject of an Educational Testing Service investigation. All 18 of his students that year achieved the highest score of five on the AP calculus exam, but 14 were accused of cheating on the exam. Despite accusations of racism against Escalante’s Latino students, ETS asserted the investigation was not racially biased. Of the 14 students under investigation, 12 retook and passed the exam.
From 1978 to 1991 he worked to build a model Advanced Placement math department at the school – one which educators throughout the country would observe to improve their math courses. He left the school in 1991 and began teaching in Bolivia. He died in 2010 of cancer.