John Dunlap, Interviewed by Patricia Norman, November 23, 2015
Location of Interview: Richfield Springs, New York
John Dunlap was born in New Rochelle, New York in 1940. His dyslexia had a major impact on his education, and with the help of teachers he graduated from the Taft School and attended Johns Hopkins University. When the Vietnam War began, he joined the Air Force and became an officer. After serving for nearly five years, Dunlap came home to the United States but was unhappy with civilian life. He taught English in Laos and Indonesia before moving to Cooperstown, NY. In this story, he talks about what motivated him to teach.
JD: I went to school in a private school. Thornton-Donovan School, an interesting place that was run by two ancient ladies from England, wonderful, wonderful people. I was a dyslexic kid. I had lots of problems and Bertha, the eldest, I think, no, the second of the girls, she was about eighty-five, and she taught me how to read. I was quite a burden as you can imagine. Dyslexia wasn’t even [recognized as a disability]—they didn’t have any idea what it was. It kind of relegated people who had that kind problem. I went to public school until they asked me to leave.
Anyway, I grew up there in New Rochelle for a few years until I was about eight or nine and then we moved to Larchmont, New York. And then I started traveling by train to Rye Country Day School. I went there with my sister and other friends. Have I told you what you wanted to know or do you want me to go on? Okay, well after I went there for a while and I graduated the eighth grade or the ninth grade, my parents put me into a private school, the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut [which was] one of a group of prep schools in the area. They were all pretty good. They put up with me for a while, I mean they didn’t kick me out or anything, but you know, I had to repeat eighth grade. Dyslexia really had an effect on me for a long period of time. Oh how I got into teaching…I think it had something to do with the fact that I was a dyslexic kid and teachers really made the difference in my life. I was a difficult child, because of that, you know. Now they have names for it, I don’t know. So, it seemed like a reasonable way to go.
I taught, also, when I was living in the Philippines. I studied some in the Philippines too, but I was in the military. I became interested in teaching perhaps through that, but then I was sent to Thailand during the war and I had relationships with young kids, their moms, and dads in Nakhon Phanom, which is northeastern Thailand. I taught little girls a little English, you know that kind of thing. I’ve always been interested in teaching and studying. I mean I’m still a student.