Mary Simpson has worked tirelessly to change the face of adult education in New Zealand. Focusing on using technology to bring education to adult learners unable to access tertiary-level formal education, she has designed innovative delivery options that recognize the flexibility adult students require. A strong commitment to equity has driven her work. She has provided opportunities. Since 1986 she has developed reading and leadership programs, supported the development and delivery of courses in the Mäori language, created return-to-teaching courses, and initiated a distance delivered program for teachers’ aides. Thousands of teacher aides have gained their first-ever formal education qualification through this program. Simpson also worked with schools developing equal employment opportunity practices.
Simpson received her DEd in 2003 from The Pennsylvania State University. From Massey University in New Zealand, she received her MEd in 1994 and her BEd in 1983.
In 1996, Simpson joined with fellow adult educator Bill Anderson to develop New Zealand’s first fully distance delivered pre-service teacher education program. This program, delivered nationally, has allowed hundreds of people in remote areas to access elementary teacher education, develop new careers, and serve as teachers in communities that traditionally were hard to staff and experienced difficulty attracting quality teachers. For this work she received a Distance Education Association of New Zealand applied teaching award and a University Teaching Award for excellence in the Creative Use of Instructional Technology and the Web in Teaching.
For many New Zealand adults, especially women, Simpson’s work has paved the way for them to move into professional areas they previously thought to be beyond their reach; in this sense she has transformed many lives. She has played a major role in opening educators’ and students’ minds to new opportunities made possible by distance education programs for those wishing to develop their potential as professionals.
Within New Zealand, Simpson is recognized for her efforts to develop, support and enhance distance education in that country. Throughout the academic part of her career she has drawn on her experience as an elementary teacher and woven that experience and academic knowledge into her publications. Her research and publications appear in national and international journals, and she has written several book chapters. She has been an executive member of the Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa, New Zealand, the premier national body for teacher education, for many years. She also is a member of the selection panel for the prestigious New Zealand National Tertiary Teaching Awards.While Simpson’s primary interest has been in educating adults as teachers and teachers’ aides, she also has encouraged, promoted, and facilitated the use of distance learning for many other audiences and disciplinary areas. She brought this broader focus to her service on the executive board of the Distance Education Association of New Zealand for the last eight years and also to her work with the Journal of Distance Leaning. She has developed and taught university courses in distance and online education and been part of a partnership that developed New Zealand’s first post-graduate qualification in distance and online education. She has also been active in community work to preserve historic places and was Chair of the Manawatu Branch of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
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