Best wishes for retirement, Elaine Simmt

Elaine Simmt built a one-of-a-kind career, not unlike the woman herself.

While the Faculty Education is grateful that she spent a significant portion of her working life with us, we understand that her retirement, which commences on July 1, 2020, is more than well-earned.

Starting at the University of Alberta on January 1, 1997, Elaine joined the Department of Secondary Education as a mathematics educator. In her 23 years at UAlberta, Elaine remained a prolific faculty member. From teaching mathematics education courses, supervising numerous graduate students, winning awards like a McCalla Professorship or a Friend of MCATA, steering the helm of the Tanzania-focused CIDA project, filling multiple administrative roles such as Department Chair of Secondary Education, CMASTE Co-Director, Associate Dean Graduate Studies, and Director of the Master of Educational Studies, Elaine’s work ethic was unquestionable. She’d show up on campus bright and early (or dark and early in the winter) and often be seen in the halls dashing from one meeting to the next. Chances are, if you sat on a committee in the Faculty, you likely experienced Elaine as a committee member.

Still, Elaine wouldn’t pass by anyone she recognized without a quick “Hi! How are you?”, or if the situation warranted it, she’d choose to be late for a meeting if it was clear that you needed a comforting ear or some kind advice. She was a mainstay of Department and Faculty events, never letting an opportunity to socialize with everyone or ham it up for the camera pass by her.

This presence had an impact on many people, including many beyond Edmonton. Here’s a small sample:

It has been an incredible privilege to work alongside Elaine in her role as Associate Dean Graduate in the Faculty of Education. She is an amazing thinker, innovator, leader, and colleague and her presence will be missed.

I first met Elaine in Fall 2000 when I began the PhD program in the Department of Secondary Education. I had the privilege of taking a research methods class with Elaine in which she encouraged us to think deeply about methodology in the context of our own scholarly commitments. I looked forward to her class each week, not only because of the rich learning experiences she created for her students, but because of the community she created. Along with her many other strengths and talents, she is a truly gifted educator! I know that I am a better researcher, scholar, teacher and leader because of Elaine and I will continue to be influenced by her long into the future. Elaine - for all you have done for the Faculty and for all the ways you have made it such a special place, my heartfelt gratitude. Best wishes for this next exciting chapter of your life.

Jennifer Tupper, Dean of Education

Elaine, Florence, graduate students and Canadian colleagues

I love this July 2016 photo taken in Hamburg Germany of Elaine, myself, our Canadian colleagues, Joyce Mgombelo (Brock U), Cynthia Nicol (UBC), and Jennifer Thom (UVic), and then-doctoral students in the Department of Secondary Education, Emmanuel Deogratias, Calvin Swai, Ratera Mayer, and Xiong Wang (who have all since successfully completed). We were at the International Congress of Mathematical Education. Elaine was on the organizing committee for this conference and the picture reminds me of the relationships that unfold throughout an academic career.

It will be 25 years ago this fall that Elaine and I started a journey together, walking alongside one another, as friends and colleagues. Our paths intersected as we made sense of theories related to research and teaching; made sense of co-teaching and our identities as researchers; imagined and implemented teacher workshops; and dreamed of, and did, work with Joyce in Tanzania. Elaine, I am grateful for your friendship, collegiality, mentorship and leadership. The Department, Faculty, University, Canadian and International mathematics education communities, fields of mathematics education and complexity science, students, and colleagues have all benefited as you’ve shared your gifts as a teacher, scholar, and administrator. Congratulations! Enjoy new experiences as a retiree, new paths unfolding as you walk, always bringing forth a world of significance.

Florence Glanfield, Vice-Provost (Indigenous Programming and Research) and Professor of Secondary Education

One of the challenges of being new in an institution as complex as the University of Alberta is understanding the governmental systems and structures. A number of individuals helped me in this regard during my time at U of A, none more so than Elaine. As co-director with Elaine for the Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, Elaine mentored me in the systems and policies relevant to leading the centre, while at the same time being a supportive and generous colleague and friend. I consider myself lucky to have worked with Elaine in her last year as director of the centre. I learned so much from you Elaine about leadership, professionalism and ethics. Thank you, and I know you will be missed.

Darren Hoeg, Assistant Professor at York University

I can’t stress enough how important Elaine was not only as my supervisor during my Ph.D. program, but as someone who really cared about me and my family. Back in 2012, I wrote her an email asking if she would be interested in supervising me. Without knowing who I was, Elaine answered my email in 20 minutes, and that email really changed my life. I moved to Canada from Brazil with my husband and two small kids. Everything was very new. I’ve never been to Canada before, so I had to deal with so many things, and Elaine was always so supportive. From trying to help in finding a job for my husband, introducing me to other professors and students at the university, to supporting all my research ideas.

Besides being under her supervision, I had the pleasure to research with her and to be her student. Elaine is a great professor and I’ve learned a lot with her. I remember dropping by her office, without notice, asking for advice; Elaine would invite me in and make herself available. Always smiling and friendly. I remember when I came to tell her that I was pregnant, in the middle of my Ph.D. program, and I said that I didn’t know if she would think this was good or bad news. Elaine told me: “A child is always good news.” And again, she was there for me and my family, allowing for all the accommodations that were necessary, including bringing my baby to a supervisory committee meeting!

When friends ask me about my Ph.D. program, I always have fantastic things to say, and I’m sure my experience at the University of Alberta was strongly influenced by her. After finishing my Ph.D. program, Elaine tried to help me find work opportunities that would fit my profile. She turned into my mentor, and whether she likes it or not haha, she’ll always be my mentor. I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I’m today if it wasn’t for her. I’m forever grateful for having our paths crossed. Thanks, Elaine. Thanks for everything you are and for everything you’ve done for me. I miss you.

Priscila Correa, Assistant Professor at University of Windsor

Elaine has been such an important part of my life since meeting her 7 years ago in an interview for the project manager position of the Hisabati ni Maisha project. Her enthusiasm for the project was infectious and it didn’t take long to realize that this was how she approached all parts of her work. Elaine is very thoughtful and always goes the extra mile for people, whether it is bringing candy and gifts for our colleagues' children in Tanzania or making sure there was always an interesting project in the pipeline for me to work on. Personally, I thank Elaine for her support and kindness throughout the time we have known each other. You have certainly made an impact on me and many others. Enjoy the next chapter!!

Laura Paslawski, Project Manager at CMASTE

I have always valued Elaine as a colleague. She approaches every difficult issue in a no-nonsense, calm manner and looks for solutions that make sense ethically. She is happy to ask the hard questions, to look from unfamiliar angles, and to think creatively. Issues don’t get personal with Elaine, though her approach is always personable and open. One of Elaine’s best skills as an academic is one that eludes many, especially women: Elaine knows how to say “no” and, better still, she knows when to say it. As a distinguished math ed professor, Secondary Education Chair, CMASTE and MES Director and Associate Dean Graduate Studies, Elaine’s contributions to the Faculty of Education have been outstanding and in the true spirit of academic citizenship.

Here’s a little doggerel to celebrate Elaine’s work:

There is a fine prof named Elaine
Who has a heckova brain
She works in math ed
A subject some dread,
But keeps remarkably sane.

Her work has always had “cred,”
She goes where some fear to tread.
“Mathematical reasoning --
With just enough seasoning--
It’s enactivist thinking,” she said.

Retirement calls, and Elaine’s an adapter
We await the news of her next chapter,
Adventures in store
With grandkids, and more.
Let’s raise up the cheers to the rafter!

Jill McClay, Professor Emerita of Elementary Education

Dear Professor Elaine Simmt, for many years you have devoted yourself to educating undergraduates, masters and doctoral students including some from Tanzania. Now you can look back with pride at all you have accomplished. You went an extra mile in international development and you have Hisabati ni Maisha (Mathematics is Living) as a case in hand. Time now comes for looking at your retirement plan with joy and satisfaction. Congratulations on your upcoming retirement!

Andrew Binde, Professor at University of Dodoma, and the rest of the Hisabati ni Maisha Team in Tanzania

At this time of her impending retirement from the Faculty, on behalf of the Department of Secondary Education and the Faculty, I thank Elaine Simmt for all the dedicated, diligent, and just plain hard work that she has given for the past 23 years and, more importantly, I thank and appreciate her for being a colleague who made our place of work a better place to be.

Tom Dust, Interim Chair of Secondary Education

Photos courtesy of Kateryna Barnes, Andrew Binde, Florence Glanfield, Jill McClay, Laura Paslawski, and Laura Sou.