Wednesday, August 30, 2023

John Achrazoglou (BA '81, MA '94, PhD '03) always wanted to be a teacher.

“I remember in high school helping kids with math during study hall,” Achrazoglou says. “To me, teaching is the most honorable profession. It’s a crucial link to our past and future.”

So it’s only befitting that Achrazoglou obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Iowa College of Education, culminating with his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the Department of Teaching and Learning. He then came right back to his alma mater, dedicating his entire career to teaching.

“I chose the University of Iowa because it was a world class institution near my mother and family in Davenport, Iowa,” Achrazoglou says. “It was the only place I applied to. I earned all my degrees here and met my wife in Currier Hall."

After 38 years of working in the college, Achrazoglou retires Sept. 1. During his tenure, he filled a variety of roles and experienced major transformations in the use of technology.

“It’s amazing how technology has become a natural component of our teaching and learning,” Achrazoglou says. “I remember students rarely had email accounts when I first started, and surveys now indicate every student comes to campus with a laptop and Google account.”

Achrazoglou began his career as a lecturer and staff member in charge of technology in 1985 – eight deans ago. The position allowed him to combine his passion for teaching and his fascination with emerging computer technologies.  He was promoted to adjunct faculty and then to clinical faculty in 2017 in the Elementary Education program. His most recent roles were clinical associate professor, chief technology officer, and director of the college’s Education Technology Center.

“It’s always awesome seeing our students going on to success and distinction,” Achrazoglou says. “Many TA’s who worked in the Education Technology Center now hold prominent positions within the college and institutions across the country and around the world.”

“To me, teaching is the most honorable profession. It’s a crucial link to our past and future.”

– John Achrazoglou

John Achrazoglou speaks to graduating class behind a podium during comencement.
John Achrazoglou addresses graduating students as the featured faculty speaker at a prior commencement.

Career highlights include being elected two times by the student body to deliver the faculty address for the college’s convocation graduation ceremony. He has also served on the Board of Directors for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), taught underprivileged youth in diverse areas, ranging from Pine Ridge, South Dakota to Islamabad, Pakistan, and he researched and advanced assistive technologies for learners with disabilities.

“I was raised by a single mother during the 1960’s. It was a tough time. I got to see firsthand the injustices she was dealt,” Achrazoglou says. “This had a profound effect on me.  I have a deep personal devotion to fairness and justice and have contributed, where I can, to helping underrepresented and underprivileged learners.”

He says he was proud to lead a virtual exchange program between students in Donnellson, Iowa – population 880 and Karachi, Pakistan – population 17 million.

“The project started with us using, what was at that time, a new tool named Zoom, to connect teachers and high schoolers in Karachi, Pakistan with high school students and teachers in Donnellson, Iowa,” he says. “In Karachi, they wanted their students to better learn English and U.S. culture, and the teachers in Donnellson wanted to globalize their curriculum. It was a huge success and a win-win on both sides of the world.  The more we interacted, the more we learned we were more alike than different.”

He adds that the project was a springboard to a U.S. Department of State grant that sent him to Pakistan.

“In one summer, more than 1,000 disadvantaged students and their teachers were trained on technology,” he says. “The project has now evolved to our doctoral students remotely conducting the trainings. Also, a leading Pakistani teacher and family just moved to Iowa City and enrolled in our language learning doctoral program.”

However, he says he believes his biggest impact was helping students and faculty in the college.

John Achrazoglou poses with the double robot during an open house in the Lindquist Center.
John Achrazoglou helps a student use the double robot as an assistive technology teaching and learning tool.

“I believe my biggest impact was helping our faculty and staff flesh out technologies and integrating them into our programs,” Achrazoglou says. “We’ve been at the forefront of some exciting innovations like ePortfolios, computerized testing, assistive technologies, robots, distance education, and most recently, immersive Artificial Intelligence headsets.”

Some of his most rewarding experiences involved working with youth programs.  The African American Awareness Program annually brought more than 100 Cedar Rapids African American middle school students and their teachers to the College of Education.

For almost 20 years, the college also participated in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) summer program, partnering with the College of Engineering, bringing American Indian high school students from tribes and nations across the country to the UI campus.

Along the way, Achrazoglou earned many awards, including twice receiving the Board of Regents Staff Excellence Award, the Outstanding Commitment to Promoting Diversity National Award from the Association of Diversity Councils, and the UI’s Catalyst Diversity Award, among others.

In retirement, he plans to visit his three children in Minneapolis, welcome his first grandchild, and travel to Greece to visit family.

“I owe a lot to this institution, the College of Education and community. It is where I raised my family and enjoyed a wonderful, rewarding career,” Achrazoglou says. “It was awesome sharing the hallways with so many brilliant and interesting people. I will certainly miss the daily interactions with colleagues and students, and, as always, Go Hawks!”

See more from the 2022-23 Annual Report.