Thursday, January 6, 2022

John Kiraly

Special education faculty emeritus John Kiraly Jr., 88, passed away Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Kiraly, a Wallingford, Connecticut native, taught at the University of Iowa College of Education for 20 years, from 1970-1989, and at Western Kentucky University for 16 years.

Kiraly made a profound impact on many students, faculty, and staff over the years. He is remembered as a pioneer of the concept of a flipped classroom and a dedicated and kind professor and scholar.

One of those students is recently retired Belin Blank Center Director Susan Assouline, who holds the Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education and who is a school psychology professor.

She says that special education legislation was passed in the mid-1970’s when the field of learning disabilities was still in its infancy within special education when she enrolled in Kiraly’s introductory graduate level course in learning disabilities in 1978.

“In fact, K-12 teachers assigned to teach students who qualified for services because of a specific learning disability could only be provisionally certified in that area because the need for teachers outpaced the establishment of formal coursework,” Assouline says. “Undeterred by the lack of textbooks, Professor Kiraly recognized that the ‘experts’ were the dedicated educators who were in the classroom working with the students during the day and attending classes in the evening as a requirement of the provisional licensure.”

Assouline adds that this meant that Kiraly’s course was a forerunner of today’s “flipped” classrooms. 

“Although every individual in Professor Kiraly’s class had spent the day teaching, we found ourselves invigorated by the opportunity to learn from each other with a kind and knowledgeable professor who instinctively recognized the value in flipping the pedagogy well before it became an accepted method,” Assouline says.

Gloria Lawrence, retired division secretary for special education, also recalls that Kiraly was an exceptionally kind person who made an impact on the lives of many students and who always went out of his way to help them succeed.

Kiraly is survived by his loving wife of 33 years, Barbara Kacer, a UI College of Education alumna (PhD, ’89), as well as other family members and friends.