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Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan

Posted Nov 21 2005 12:00am

Picture of Sister Joanne Marie KliebhanSister Joanne Marie Kliebhan, a long-time and resourceful advocate for children with disabilities, died 13 November 2005 in Milwaukee (WI, US) at 80 years of age. My colleague Janet Lerner has written these notes of remembrance.

Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan

Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan was a very early advocate of Early Childhood Special Education. She told me about fighting the medical community in Milwaukee in trying to establish a facility in Milwaukee to provide intervention services for infants with disabilities. The doctors strongly discouraged her, advising that such infants should be placed in institutions. She believed that these children could thrive and learn in the right learning environment.

Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan received her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois with Sam Kirk, and she put everything she had learned into establishing a facility at the St. Francis Children’s Center in a remarkable building, that had the latest architectural and education innovations for children with special needs. She served as Educational Director and Eli Tash served as the Financial Director. Once you entered the building, there were two identical offices—one for the Educational Director and one for the Financial Director. One office had a large cross on the back wall, and one office had a Star of David.

Sistern Joanne Marie served as Program Chair for one of LDA’s Annual conferences. Eli Tash served as an Early President of LDA (the Learning Disabilities Association). Eli and I served as co-director of the LDA conference in Kansas City.

Sam Kirk, Sister Joanne Marie, and I were co-authors of the second edition of Sam Kirk’s first book, Teaching Reading to Slow and Disabled Learners, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978.

Etched on the building of the St. Francis Children’s Achievement Center are the words that guided Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan in her life’s work.

All children can learn if we can learn how to teach them.

Sister Joanne Marie Kliebhan wrote her own story, My Journal with Francis, which is linked to this note.

Janet Lerner

Readers interested in learning more about Sister Joanne Marie may consult the editorial obituary, “Helping children was her calling,” from the Milwaukee Journal. Also, there is an earlier story published when Sister Joanne Marie and Sister Camille were honored for their contributions to education.

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