In Memory of Janette Klingner

Sharon Vaughn

I remember the first time I met Janette Klingner. She made an appointment to talk with me about the doctoral program at the University of Miami. She was interested in students with reading disabilities, especially students who were bilingual. She was passionate about these students and was clear in her ideas about what she wanted to learn. Frankly, she already seemed to know a lot, and I secretly wondered whether there was anything I could teach her.

That initial meeting occurred 25 years ago—before she was awarded the Early Career Award from AERA, was elected President of the Division for Learning Disabilities, served as Associate Editor of Journal of Learning Disabilities, and was elected President of the Council for Exceptional Children. Clearly I had it right when as an assistant professor, I worried whether I had much to offer her as my future doctoral student. Fortunately, it didn’t matter. Her passion for students with disabilities who were also English language learners transferred to me, and together we launched a program of research that continues to this day. Janette’s generosity in sharing what she knew, interest in including as many folks as she could in whatever problem she was tackling, and commitment to conducting high quality research that mattered to practicing professionals is legendary. There simply was no issue related to promoting effective outcomes for students with disabilities that she would not take on. Whether it was policy development, multi-cultural education, research methodology, syntheses, effective interventions, or school reform, Janette wanted to be part of the discussion. Furthermore, she wanted as many other voices as she could find to be part of the discussion. Few people were as concerned about including multiple voices in decision-making as Janette Klingner.

Janette Klingner was not only my student and my teacher—she was my friend. She would be yours too, if you spent more than 15 minutes with her. Few of us know how to love others with such devotion and caring as Janette did. She believed the best about people and was truly surprised when they behaved poorly. She could not imagine being unkind, and she understood and expected it of us too. Amazing, how many of us were better people around her because of that expectation. I am unsure how to communicate clearly what a huge loss Janette Klingner’s passing is for all of us. I suppose one way to illustrate this is that if she were alive today, I’d be sending this to her to review for me. She would know how to make it better. She always made everything better.