Mary Connor taught Asian Studies and United States history for 35 years in the Los Angeles area. She is the author of The Koreas: A Global Studies Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2002), a response to the need for a high school reference book and text on Korean history and culture. She is the editor of Asia in Focus: The Koreas (ABC-CLIO, 2009), a reference and text that covers the history and culture of both Koreas. She is the co-founder of the Korea Academy for Educators (KAFE) and organizes seminars and workshops at the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles and workshops on Korean history and culture and the Korean American experience throughout the United States.
Connor has received national and local recognition for her efforts to improve teaching about Asia. She has received prestigious fellowships: the Keizai Koho Center Fellowship to Japan (1997) and two Korea Society Fellowships (2000 and 2004). She is the recipient of the Peace Corps Association Global Educator Award (2002) and the Tachau Award (2005), the only award given to a pre-collegiate teacher by the Organization of American Historians. The Korean Consulate Los Angeles honored Connor in 2007 for her efforts to inform educators about Korean history and culture. In 2009 Connor lobbied successfully in Sacramento for the inclusion of Korean history and culture in the California History-Social Science Framework; this will lead to greater inclusion of Korea in textbooks throughout the United States. In 2011 she received the Prime Minister’s Award from the Republic of South Korea and the Daekyo Global Educator’s Award for her commitment to Korea. She was honored on October 6, 2012 by the Council on Korean Studies at Michigan State University for her efforts.
As a result of her passion for teaching, Connor shared her expertise for ten years as a presenter at conferences (National Council for Social Studies and the California Council for Social Studies Conferences). She has taught in programs about Korea at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Illinois, University of Washington, University of Colorado, University of Michigan, East Rock Institute, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, University of the Pacific, and Cal State Fullerton. Since 2004, Connor has also organized workshops on Korean history and culture in many school districts in both Northern and Southern California and in 2011 started the first workshops in Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, and Tucson on Korean history and culture and the Korean American experience. In 2012 she also organized workshops in Atlanta, Chicago (two workshops), and San Diego and helped to facilitate a workshop in Fremont, California.
Connor has published over twenty-five articles in leading journals, such as Education About Asia, Social Education (NCSS), News and Reviews (Asian Educational Media Service, University of Illinois), and Independent School (the journal of the National Association for Independent Schools). An essay, “Teaching United States History Thematically,” was published in the Teachers’ Edition of The Americans (McDougal Littell), one of the most widely used United States history textbooks. In 2010, Mary Connor assumed a position on the editorial board of Education About Asia, the leading journal for educators who teach about Asia.
The first seminar on Korean history and culture and the Korean American experience was created in July 2004. In order to sustain and broaden programs, the Korea Academy for Educators (KAFE) was founded in 2006. Its mission is to bring Korean history and culture into American classrooms, respond to changing demographics, improve cross-cultural understanding, and meet the needs of Korean American students and their families. By the fall of 2013 over 2, 510 educators had participated in KAFE programs from throughout the United States.