Record Rewind: A formidable teacher

Mary Maud Smart had a tremendous impact on Adventist education over the course of her 46 years as a teacher, supervisor and "dreaded inspector".

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Mary Maud Smart.

Mary Maud Smart was born into an Adventist home in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1892. Her Personal Service Record provides no further information about her childhood, family, siblings etc, other than that she accepted the Adventist message “from childhood”. In an age when it was not common for people to have the privilege of a full secondary education, Mary Maud must have been an exceptional student as she matriculated into the University of New Zealand, thus qualifying to enter higher education. Instead, she became a student teacher at the Church-owned Pukekura Training School near Cambridge in north New Zealand during the years 1911-12.

Once qualified, Maud Smart entered the teaching ministry of the Church in 1913 and from there on the official record of her service is both contradictory and incomplete. While there are four listings of her service placements, each different, not one fully provides the dates she served in each place, though one incomplete account does list how many years she held some postings. However, that version differs from the one provided in her Personal Service Record.

It would seem though that after qualifying as a teacher, she taught seven years at the New Zealand Missionary College (now Longburn College) before taking a one year leave of absence. Then, on her return to denominational service, she assisted C H Showe in a new high school being established in Sydney, Australia. This was followed by two years as a teacher and dean of women at Avondale College, following which she took another one year leave of absence.

Back in New Zealand when she resumed her denominational career, she taught in Christchurch for nine years, at the Hamilton School in north New Zealand for at least two years, and more likely five, before moving to Australia a second time for two years (around 1939–1940) to assist Pastor Ben McMahon, who was then the Australasian Union director of education. This was followed by a final stint of 15–18 years back at Papanui in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

"[Miss Smart was] someone who proceeded with great dignity across the campus like a galleon under full sail."

For a time during her later career she was also the “school supervisor”, travelling for some weeks annually all around the country, giving assistance and support to the teachers. Her reputation was that she had an exceptionally keen mind and could quickly discern the strengths and weakness of young teachers, and was very able in supplying practical help and wisdom as she guided their careers. They in turn respected her thoroughness and support, and were grateful for her kind assistance and encouragement. However, in those days teachers would warn their students that the dreaded “inspector” would be coming to visit their classroom for a day and examine all their bookwork and how necessary it was that they be on their best behaviour. So the students formed the impression that the purpose of the inspection visit was just to sit in judgement upon them!

Miss Smart was not only a good teacher but also had a reputation for being a very good disciplinarian. Thus, for the students of the time, Miss Smart was the formidable “inspector” who would very carefully examine every aspect of the written work of each child in their somewhat nervous presence, and to them, someone who proceeded with great dignity across the campus like a galleon under full sail.

It’s unusual for teachers to continue in their classroom role right through to retirement so Miss Smart’s 46 years of denominational service in the classroom teaching ministry of the Church is in itself quite an achievement. However, soon after her retirement in 1958, her health began to fail and she went to her rest in Christchurch on March 6, 1963.


Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.