John King may be the first U.S. secretary of education who was kicked out of high school. But he hopes he’s not the last.

King’s parents died before he finished sixth grade. By the time he was in high school, he was a hurting, angry kid who needed a lot of patience. He found it, he says, from teachers.

“Part of my story is about second chances and the willingness of adults to have more hope for me than I had for myself and to see me as more than the sum of my mistakes,” King said in a recent interview with Jeremy Smith, president of the Rainwater Charitable Foundation, at a Fort Worth, Texas, summit co-hosted by the foundation and education reform nonprofit Empower Schools.