M.S., University of Wyoming, Natural Science Education, 2012
B.S., Western Colorado University, Ecology and Environmental Biology, 2009
Mandi Leigh brings a variety of expertise to Western Colorado University. She is thrilled to join the Education Department in 2023 as a Clinical Coach and Lecturer. She completed her Educational Doctorate at University of Northern Colorado where she studied education reform. Mandi’s dissertation blended ecological and educational methods to reveal how suburban middle, and high school teachers represented more-than-human life in their curriculum. She found that many local relationships among life were hidden in a camouflaged curriculum that concealed life not by trickery, but by mundanity.
Mandi graduated from Western with a B.S. in Ecology and Environmental Biology. She studied place-based education at the Teton Science School and University of Wyoming. She earned her teachers license right here at Western. As a secondary teacher she taught middle school STEM, environmental science, and was a curriculum specialist. Before becoming a secondary educator, she worked as a wildlife biologist throughout Colorado where she studied birds, aquatic invertebrates, and endangered butterflies. She worked in ski industry as a snowmaker and snowcat operator. Mandi loves to grow food and flowers. You may find her on walkabouts in the mountains, fishing in local rivers, or reading books in the shade.
How did you discover Western?
When I was in High School I saw the X-Games on TV that was taking place in Colorado town, Crested Butte. In that moment, I decided I wanted to go to college at Western. Five years later, I was living in Silverthorne, CO, driving snowcats at night, and working day-jobs too. One night, I decided to apply, then enroll, as a non-traditional student at Western. As an undergrad, I studied ecology and fell in love with the rural pace of life and the surrounding mountains. I returned to Western for my secondary teaching license and I joined the Education Department in 2023.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
One of the benefits of working in education is that there are so many highlights. One of my favorite moments was observing middle school students introducing elementary students to the school garden that they had proposed, funded, and built themselves during my elective science class. The middle schoolers used lessons that they had created to foster love for vegetables and to feed their community. The memory drives me to continue working in diverse roles within the education field. I am still so proud of them and all the students I met during my Kindergarten to University teaching career.
What most excites you about your field?
The education field is highly diverse and evolving. What excites me about education is the immense potential for renewing our relationships among all life, humans, and with places in every single classroom of all ages. For many communities, schools are the hub for children and families. Teachers are gifted this beautiful responsibility to join communities and foster healthy lives with the folks where they work. I am excited about the opportunity to coach aspiring educators as they connect with their uniquely suitable tools and routines so they may thrive in K12 education settings.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
The Gunnison Valley is so rich with life, cold winters, the smell of sage, glorious silence, and activities for everyone. I love all of it.
- Leigh, M., (Under Review). Uniting ecological and educational worlds: Expressions of relationships among life, human life and place in suburban schools. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue.
- Romero, D., Leigh, M., & Lo, W. (2022). Pre-service Teachers’ Reflective Writing and Learning in Early Field Experiences, Journal of. Educational Research and Innovation, 9(1).
- Alexander, K. & Leigh, M. (2008). Parsimonious management plan: Conservation of the Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly and management of native and domestic ungulates US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008
- Alexander, K. & Leigh, M (2008) Uncompahgre fritillary monitoring, inventory, genetic sampling, and mapping: 2008 report and status. US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
External Professional Affiliations
- Garden to Table
- University of Northern Colorado
- Red Rocks Community College
- American Association for Teaching and Curriculum