The beginnings of adult basic education were known as "night school" where people were taught to read and write. Some night schools took place with the students and teacher huddled around a campfire. With the passage of the Adult Education Act in 1966, assessment to identify literacy needs for adults within New Mexico took place.

Soon after, the Land Of Enchantment received its first flow of federal funds to introduce adult basic education throughout the state. In 1967, pioneers in the field of adult basic education and community education gave birth to the statewide professional organization.

The 60's were characterized as the formative years: "Taking Our First Steps." The 70's were a time for legislative action and getting the news out about adult students and their needs: "Stepping Up the Action." The 80's were a time of coordination of services: "Step by Step Together," and the 90's focused on the development of a continuum of educational offerings and building the employability factor into ABE: "Stepping into the Future."

The turn of the century brought additional accountability standards to Adult Basic Education through the passage of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. NMAEA has kept in step, identifying and fostering quality adult education by providing leadership, professional development opportunities, adult basic education teacher endorsement, and by serving in an advocacy capacity as challenges to ABE arise.

It is interesting to note that NMAEA had two name changes in the 70's: the original New Mexico Adult Association (NMAA) was first changed to New Mexico Adult Educators Association (NMAEA) and then later to New Mexico Adult and Continuing Education Association (NMACEA). In the mid 90's, the name changed to its present form- the New Mexico Adult Education Association (NMAEA).