Bethy Leonardi
Associate Professor • Co-Founder and Co-Director
Educational Foundations, Policy & Practice • A Queer Endeavor

Miramontes Baca Education Building, Room 242
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Bethy Leonardi is an associate professor in Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice. After teaching middle and high school for 16 years, Bethy Leonardi returned to graduate school and received her PhD in Educational Foundations Policy and Practice from The University of Colorado Boulder in 2014. That year, along with Dr. Sara Staley, she co-founded A Queer Endeavor, a nationally recognized center for gender and sexual diversity in education, which is housed in CU Boulder's School of Education. A Queer Endeavor is a grassroots, queer-run initiative that’s a significant influence on Dr.Leonardi's scholarship and community-based work. In collaboration, Drs.Leonardi & Staley work in deep partnership with districts and school communities to develop knowledge, practices, processes, and resources so that the culture of school is not only safe from physical and or emotional danger, but also humanizing for LGBTQ+ youth, families, and staff.

Awards that Bethy has received for her scholarship and community-based work include the Best Should Teach Gold Award, the Kalpana Chawla Award and the President’s Diversity Award (all from CU Boulder).


PhD, Educational Foundations, Policy, & Practice, University of Colorado Boulder, 2014 MA, Educational Foundations, Policy, & Practice, University of Colorado Boulder, 2007 BA, English Education, Nicholls State University, 1996

Dr. Leonardi's scholarship explores how public schools, as compulsory institutions affirm, include, deny, and/or silence queer identities. Specifically, she is interested in how educators enact promising practices that disrupt-- and heal-- cis-heteronormative school ecologies to create schools that are ready for (and not merely reactive to) queer youth. A way in to understanding school ecologies is through a focus on the relationship between policy and practice-- and at the level of implementation. Specifically, Bethy is interested in policies that challenge the status quo, that is, what counts as “normal” in public schools. She works to understand how those policies might land in local ecologies, and how educators might “till the soil” so that they land safely and have positive impacts.

My teaching philosophy is guided by an anti-oppressive education framework and is rooted queer, critical, and transformative pedagogies. It includes several commitments: understanding education as practice of freedom, building learning communities that center self-reflexivity and vulnerability, recognizing that learning and unlearning do something to students and teachers, and supporting students’ desire to take action to change both schools and society.

I love teaching.  And to love teaching, I have to be deeply committed to my students and to my growth as an educator. Central to my teaching philosophy is my own process of becoming and my commitment to continue to ask and to live the questions that arise throughout that process. Teaching is important to who I am as a person. I’d like to say that it’s my favorite part of this job, but that would be a complex statement to unpack. It’s hard; it hurts; it’s exhausting, and it's worth every growing pain.


EDUC 5005 Advanced Social Foundations of Education

EDUC 3013 School & Society

EDUC 4804/6804 Queer(ing) Topics in Education

EDUC 5022 LGBTQ Topics in Higher Education

Leonardi, B., & Staley, S. (2019). Complicating what we know: Focusing on educators’ processes of becoming gender and sexual diversity inclusive. Theory into Practice. 58(1). 29-38.

Leonardi, B., & Staley, S. (2018). What’s involved in ‘the work’? Understanding administrators’ roles in bringing trans-affirming policies into practice. Gender and Education, 1-20.

Leonardi, B. (2017) Navigating the relationship between policy and practice: Competing discourses of fear and care in teachers’ sense-making about the FAIR Education Act, Journal of Education Policy, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2017.1320730

Leonardi, B. (2017). The “box” ing match: Narratives from queer adults growing up through the heterosexual matrix. Journal of LGBT Youth, 14(1), 93-117.