Teacher Escalante Integrates Discipline With Mathematics

The mathematics teacher who inspired Los Angeles high school students and a Hollywood film told a crowd of 200 at the Science Center yesterday that discipline and responsibility were the key to learning.

"I don't just teach math, I teach discipline and responsibility," said Jaime Escalante, who was the subject of the film "Stand and Deliver."

Escalante was the opening speaker for the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations' third annual conference on "Advancing Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering," which continues today.

Escalante, who is nationally renowned for his success in teaching advanced high school mathematics to underprivileged students, preached a message of positive thinking and responsibility.

"I tell my students that winners look for solutions, losers look for excuses," Escalante said. "Johnnie, I want you to be a winner, anybody can be a winner, you just have to desire it."


Escalante, who was born in Bolivia and travelled to America at age 34, said he has a sign hanging under the clock in his classroom which reads, "Determination plus discipline plus hard work equals the way to success."

"When a student comes in the classroom, what is the first thing he does? He looks at the clock," Escalante said. He recounted a story of making a student who had been staring at the clock read the sign out loud.

Escalante also shared some of his other teaching strategies. He said that comparing student achievement to athletic achievement worked well as a motivating factor.

He reminded the audience of Babe Ruth's practice of calling home runs.

"He talked to reporters after the game. He said it never entered his mind that he wouldn't hit a home run," Escalante said. "I tell my students: Johnnie, hit a home run, be a winner. I'm just the coach, you have to be the players."

Escalante emphasized that the key to his success as an educator is his belief in his students' abilities.

"I do not create talents," Escalante said. "I discover them, they come in all different shapes and sizes."

After the speech Escalante was presented with an award for teaching excellence by S. Allen Counter, professor of neurology and director of the Harvard Foundation.

Escalante's talk headlined the two-day conference on minorities in science sponsored by the Harvard Foundation and several undergraduate organizations.

The purpose of the conference is to expose science students to resources and career options and to increase the interest and representation of minorities and women in science.

Today there will be a series of research talks by professors on topics ranging from neurobiology to computer science.

Professor of Physics Melissa Franklin, who was among those who confirmed the existence of the top quark, will give the primary address