Former Illiterate Teacher Now Advocates Literacy

February 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A San Diego man is an advocate for literacy after teaching high school for 17 years, without being able to read or write.A veteran teacher is now practicing what he preaches. The San Diego man is an advocate for literacy after teaching high school for 17 years without being able to read or write.

For most of his life John Corcoran was a scribe. As a kid, he painstakingly copied letters on the chalkboard. But the words he wrote had no meaning. "I can remember when I was 8 years old saying my prayers at night saying please God tomorrow when it's my turn to read please let me read," said Corcoran.

To this day the images of the secrets he kept as a grade school student remain vividly clear. "You just pretend that you are invisible. When the teacher says Johnnie read you just wait the teacher out you know the teacher has to go away at some point when I got to the fifth grade it was like going to war it was getting up and fixing your band net. What is a band net? And going into hostile territory", said Corcoran.

Corcoran eventually started acting up to hide his illiteracy. When he entered high school he started cheating. Like a man with an addiction covering up with lies and deceit. "I couldn't read words but I could read the system and I could read people," said Corcoran.

Whether it was stealing tests or convincing friends to complete his assignments, Corcoran managed to graduate high school and earn an athletic scholarship to Texas Western College. There his cheating continued.

"I passed a bluebook out the window to a friend I painstakinly copied four essay questions off the board in us government class that was required," said Corcoran.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in education, still unable to read or write. Ironically Corcoran's next decision landed him back in the classroom. He got a job during a teachers' shortage.

For 17 years Corcoran taught high school for the Oceanside School District. He relied on teacher's assistants for help and oral lesson plans. But at the age of 48 he had a change of heart.

John Corcoran studied and worked with a tutor at the Carlsbad City Library. Within a year he was reading and writing at a six grade level. Carrie Scott of the Carlsbad City Library says the first step is asking for help.

Many people do not come forward with their story there are people in all occupations including teachers who have difficulty reading and writing.

Corcoran is now an education advocate. His goal is to create a bridge to literacy. "If we would just teach our people how to read, write and spell.. We would give them a fair chance," said Corcoran.

A chance he hopes to give to others by sharing his amazing story.


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