Inspirational educator speaks at NIU

By Rob Heselbarth

As part of National Hispanic Month NIU was paid a visit by the man who inspired the movie “Stand and Deliver.”

When Jaime Escalante, a high school math teacher in California, was asked how he wanted to be introduced, he modestly replied, “I’m just a teacher.”

Escalante spoke to a nearly packed Sandburg Auditorium Saturday night about the importance of an education in the United States.

“Educating our kids involves a big change in their personality and a big plus in our society,” he said. “Education in this country is the ticket to success.”

Escalante said the only way you can be successful in life is to have the desire to be successful.

“Winners always look for solutions, and losers always look for excuses,” he said.

“If you expect kids to be losers, they will be losers. If you expect them to be winners, they will be winners,” he said. “Children will rise and fall to your level of expectation.”

Escalante said he thinks educators have the incredible opportunity to positively influence the young children of today.

“Every time a kid comes to talk to you, opportunity is knocking on your door,” he said.

“If a kid says ‘hi’ to you, don’t just say ‘hi’ back. Say ‘Hi, how are you doing in math?’ and the kid will talk to you,” he added.

Getting children to talk to you is one of the most important things an educator can do, Escalante said.

“Every time you talk to your kid, you should talk with love and kindness,” he said. “On the one hand show love, and on the other hand show discipline, so they will learn responsibility.”

Tara Baker, a junior special education major, said the timing of Escalante’s speech was good for her, as she will start student teaching this week.

“I will expect a lot from day one,” Baker said.

“I realize the most important thing is to educate the children and not to be their best friends,” Baker said. “But if they like you too, that’s great.”

Sharon Ege, a junior elementary education major, thought Escalante’s talk was very inspirational.

“As a future educator, I thought what he said about children rising and falling to your level of expectation is a really good aspect to keep in mind,” Ege said.