Jesse J. Anderson


"He's a smart boy, he'll get it"

John Corcoran was a man with an extraordinary secret.

Everything seemed fine from the outside. John was been popular in high school, did well in sports and dated the Valedictorian. A basketball scholarship sent him off to college and he became a well-liked social studies teacher of 17 years.

But that secret?

John Corcoran didn't know how to read.

It started in second grade.

One of six siblings, it was easy to get lost in the crowd. His teachers knew he was a little bit behind, but as he began to act out more, they lost focus of his reading ability. As years went on, times got desperate and John found new creative ways to cheat and avoid being found out. In college, he stole exams from a professor's office, and passed papers out a window to another student to complete for him.

I was so desperate to hide the truth and keep my eligibility that I crossed the line. ... I was scared to death. I did some extraordinarily risky things.

Once you're committed to a lie of this magnitude, you're trapped. As he taught, he relied on new tricks to get by. Students did attendance verbally so he could memorize their names. He invited guest speakers, and he relied on the smarter students which he gave prominent teacher's assistant roles.

Nobody suspects a teacher of not knowing how to read.

One day, everything changed when he saw Barbara Bush speaking about the problems of adult illiteracy.

He wasn't alone. And for the first time, he knew it.

When you aren't alone, hope for change feels attainable.

So John finally shared his secret and hired a tutor. And at the age of 48, he learned to read.