Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Bernhardt Scholar

Mary Aspedon

Mary Aspedon

I have chosen for my epitaph a single word: “Teacher.” At my age, it is not too soon to give the subject of epitaphs serious consideration and this single word best sums up my life. From early childhood I dreamed of being a teacher and I have lived that dream for 44 years. I envisioned university teaching as the perfect ending to my dream and that was realized when I came to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 2000. My passion for teaching is one of the reasons being nominated for the Bernhardt Academic Excellence Award is such an honor. This is my third nomination and whether or not it is a “charm,” I am thrilled each time that official letter shows up in my mailbox because it is affirmation of my lifelong commitment to teaching excellence.

My family could not afford college tuition so I began working parttime at age 12 to support my education. With my father's sudden death when I was 15, my earnings were needed to help support the family so I concentrated on achieving academically to qualify for scholarship assistance. In 1963, through scholarships, jobs, and student loans, I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor's Degree in Education and immediately took my first teaching position in a kindergarten classroom with 36 students in the morning, 38 students in the afternoon, and no teaching assistant. I loved every minute of it never realizing that was an impossible task for a beginning teacher…I was living my dream! I learned child development firsthand when my daughter, Crista, was born at the end of my second year of teaching. I completed six additional years of classroom teaching and was selected as “Kansas Outstanding Teacher of the Year” in 1970.

I earned a Master's Degree in special education from the University of Kansas in 1971 and, for the next few years, served as special education administrator for school districts in Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska. In 1976, I became Director of Special Education for the Wyoming Department of Education. I returned to the Midwest in 1978 to develop in innovative early childhood program that earned an “Excellence in Leadership Award.” Following additional graduate coursework I became an elementary principal and was named “Employee of the Year” for the Millard Nebraska Public Schools in 1985. In 1987 I was appointed Director of Special Services in Kearney, Nebraska, where I met and married my husband, Arden Aspedon, who deserves all of the credit for bringing us to this wonderful place that is Southwestern, but that is another story.

While serving as special education administrator for the Lincoln Public Schools I received a Ph.D. in Administration, Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 1990. For the next seven years, I served in the highest ranks of public school administration in suburban St. Louis as Associate Superintendent for the Francis Howell School District and as Assistant Superintendent for the Ladue School District.

Having achieved my goals in public school teaching and administration, it was time to look for the ideal ending I had envisioned throughout my career - university teaching. When SWOSU offered Arden a position teaching microbiology in the School of Allied Health in 2000, serendipitously an educational administration position was available in the School of Education and I joined the Southwestern faculty as assistant professor. In 2005 I was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor.

Since coming to Southwestern, I have accumulated numerous achievements in teaching, scholarship, and service. Most notable is the redesign of the Master's Degree in Educational Administration. Since implementation of the revised program in the summer of 2004, the program has experienced a 1000% increase in program completers. Current students participate through distance learning at sites throughout Oklahoma, south and west to Texas and north to Kansas and the Panhandle; in the Oklahoma City, Stillwater, and Tulsa metropolitan areas; and in numerous sites in-between and beyond.

In addition to teaching I have served the University through the Graduate Council, Panorama Committee, Protection of Human Subjects Committee, Intellectual Property Committee, General Education Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Interdisciplinary Studies Degree Program Committee and sponsorship of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society. I work with public school districts to supervise administrative interns throughout Oklahoma and in Kansas and Texas. I provide consultant services and professional development workshops for teachers and administrators throughout the area.

I am active in professional organizations and have a number of publications including a textbook published in 2006. I regularly complete reviews of textbooks for publishers. I am a frequent presenter at conferences and I recently completed a large-scale research study that surveyed over 600 Oklahoma school principals to determine attitudes toward special education issues.

My husband and I have made Southwestern and Weatherford our home and we enjoy supporting a number of community services and activities. I could not have found a better place to end my dream than Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

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