Susan Leonard wants Christians to take their children’s education more seriously. As the director of Stay in the Story and a commissioned fellow with the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Leonard aims to bring an integrated, whole truth to Christian education. In her work, Leonard draws on a wealth of experience, including education at Talbot, where she completed a master’s in Christian apologetics in 2022 and is currently a student in the Ph.D. program in educational studies. Previously, she was the Bible department chair at Annapolis Area Christian School in Annapolis, Maryland, where she taught high school and middle school Bible. She is also a former White House political appointee for President George H.W. Bush, serving in the Office of Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater. She is married to Dan Leonard and they have two grown children, Torrey and Lucy.
What are some valuable lessons you learned during your time at Talbot?
Two things. First, I learned how to be faithful in the small things. As Talbot’s Dr. Scott Smith says, believers are to “abide” in Christ, so that his life, through his Spirit, lives in them, so that they draw their life and sustenance from him, just as the branches do from the vine (John 15:4-5). I believe we draw our life and sustenance from him when we learn to be faithful in the small things: the daily, small steps we take in obedience that no one sees. Second, I learned the role of the mind in spiritual transformation. J.P. Moreland says, “If we are to have Christ formed in us (Gal. 5:19) we must realize the work of God in our minds and pay attention to what a Christlike mind might look like.” At Talbot, I found the role of the mind in spiritual transformation essential. As Paul says in Colossians 3:2, we are to “put on the new self,” and we do this when we are “renewed in knowledge after the image of our creator.” Talbot taught me how to defend Christianity with good reasons and evidence. Talbot also helped me to see people as equals, and ideas as superior. All people are created in God’s image and are equal, but ideas are not. This is what a Christlike mind looks like.
What do you enjoy the most in your current ministry role as a Christian educator?
Recently, I saw a tweet from Dr. Scott Swain who said, “Here’s the thing: the best teachers want their students to surpass them. That’s the goal of their teaching.” I agree. As an educator, I like to view myself as a conduit between Biola’s faculty and my students to help give them access to the best minds, especially here on the East Coast. We must partner with the best if we are to win the battle of ideas and the hearts and minds of the next generation. Nothing gives me greater joy than receiving an email from a 16-year-old telling me that it's "amazing" and "so cool" meeting the people she's watched online in class the past year at a conference and now gets to ask them questions and interact with them in person. She will surpass me, and there is no greater joy than knowing that, and helping her to do it.
Finally, would you like to share any thoughts and words of appreciation as a Talbot alumna?
When I began the master’s program in Christian Apologetics, I knew I lacked the knowledge of our nation's worldview experts and thought leaders, many of whom spoke about Christianity in a way that I did not.It’s not
enough to say, “I’ve known Jesus my whole life,” or in my case, I am a Christian “because Jesus showed up” when I was 31 years old. I hear people in the church — and especially in Christian schools — say it’s enough to experience Christ and share your testimony, but it’s not enough if we want to equip our students to think
with a Christlike mind. President Barry Corey said recently that Biola is a “citadel of serious Christian thought.” He said, “I want this to be a university where the best ideas are wrestled through vigorously, yet civilly,” and to equip students with a “disposition … of profound gratitude for being saved by grace”' and who know “Christ is
Lord over all.” When I read Corey’s words, I thought, this is what the faculty looks like at Biola, people who wrestle with ideas vigorously yet civilly, who embody a profound gratitude, who value and aim for integration and to think biblically about everything. Often, throughout the program, I’d tell my husband, it’s not an exaggeration to say that it feels as if I am at the feet of the disciples, which is one reason I’ve decided to continue at Talbot in the Ph.D. in Educational Studies program. The Bible says the love of Christ surpasses knowledge. Talbot faculty embody the love of Christ. I’ve learned from the best how to articulate a Christian worldview reverently, with intelligence, confidence and compassion. I pray I honor Christ and Talbot’s investment in me in every conversation.