Edward James Olmos received his only Oscar nomination at the moment for portraying Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver.
Edward James Olmos portrays the inspirational math teacher. There really is a strangely lacking amount of background information on Escalante. There is some mention that he originally had a different job, but gave that job up to be a High School teacher. There really is not all that much information why he is so devoted, but it can easily be taken that he just is. His whole giving up his other job to be a teacher could have used more explanation though as to why he has such a drive to be specifically a teacher.
I say all of that because Olmos could have then given a little more to do in explaining who this character is and why he is so devoted as he is, there are not these scenes though. In fact Olmos only really has to do one thing which is to be an inspirational and devoted teacher. Olmos does most certainly do this well enough, and it is not a one note performance either. He may be inspirational but he is tough in handling the more troubled students, or when he is trying to convince them to stay the course.
Olmos is good in all of these aspects of the character. He is believable as a teacher, through his sometimes unorthodox methods of teaching the students. He shows and ease in his method, that is appropriately realistic in terms of his approach. Olmos also has the right passion when he is fighting for his students whether it is convincing one of them not to quit, or fighting against the prejudice of the school system.
Olmos' role is fairly simple but he does portray it as well as it should be portrayed. It never is quite amazing or anything. Escalante as a character is kept pretty simple in terms of his constant devotion and dedication. Olmos stays consistent with this portrayal of devotion and dedication. It is never really is all that incredible though, but it is an entirely fine effort.