SchoolSims Interview | University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Possible and Potential Leadership Dilemmas)

March 1, 2023

In this interview, we sat down with Dr. LeAnne Salazar Montoya, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy and Leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to discuss her involvement with simulations and why she believes it is essential for educators to implement simulation learning into their programs.

How did you hear about SchoolSims?

My first introduction to and experience with SchoolSims was back in 2018 while participating in the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents Academy, and we were asked to pilot the simulations and take part in the development of and refinement of a simulation that was being developed at the time, so I was a member of a group that piloted the use of the simulation. 

How did you become involved with simulations?

I have utilized simulations in different settings. I first engaged with the simulations as a test user as a member of the leadership academy, then I presented simulations to our first leadership cohort in the 4 Corners region of the American Southwest and later engaged with the simulation as an instructor of aspiring school leaders at the collegiate level. I utilized this sim as an instructional tool for my university course. 

Why did you feel that simulations would be valuable to your work?

The simulations allow for real-world scenarios that enable individuals or small groups to engage in dialogue and problem-solving skills to better prepare themselves for real-world applications. The simulations allow students to discuss leadership decisions and the potential outcomes of such. The discourse analysis is rich and engages participants, preparing them for actual world application of possible effects.

Can you describe your experience with the simulations as part of the ALAS 4-Corners Leadership Academy?

In 2020, I was the president of NM ALAS and reached out to Ken Spero, SchoolSims President & Founder, and asked to utilize simulations as a tool for a session during our leadership academy to prepare aspiring leaders for possible and potential leadership dilemmas. The use of these simulations provides those engaged in discussing multiple outcomes and the benefits and consequences of making such decisions to consider the possible and potential benefits and risks of their choices in a safe environment and to consider the best course of action should situations arise similar while they are in the field.

Can you describe your experience with the simulations and your work at UNLV?

The educational leadership degree program includes a handful of courses which are brief introductions to numerous topics related to the roles/responsibilities they will be assigned as school leaders. Ken and I partnered to introduce the simulations during a two-day conflict resolution course; the simulation was used as a learning resource that complemented the theories presented, and participants used to view and practice in tandem to pride themselves on a more rich experience during this short course. 

What kind of feedback do you hear from participants after they have taken part in a simulation?

The feedback students provided included their positive reflections and experiences, as demonstrated by their more profound level of understanding and ability to discuss problems of practice from multiple perspectives and the ability to consider various outcomes. Students felt that having an interactive simulation that allowed them to engage and actively participate and discuss their decision-making allowed them to prepare for potential problems of practice and to engage in discourse analysis with peers.

Why should educators implement simulations into their programs?

Using simulations as instructional aides at the collegiate level for aspiring school leaders is highly recommended. The rich story of engagement, analysis, and discussion of potential outcomes allows participants to discuss viewpoints, products, and potentially actual world applications and developments. 

Students felt that engagement in activities that allow for collaborative problem-solving, teamwork, and discourse analysis were beneficial for their leadership development.


Prior to joining Educational Psychology, Leadership and Higher Education in 2022, Assistant Professor LeAnne Salazar Montoya was an educator and public servant in Northern New Mexico for 20 years. She has an associate’s degree in liberal arts, a bachelor of science degree in education with a minor in social studies and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of New Mexico, and a master’s degree  in education/special education from New Mexico State University. She completed her doctorate at New Mexico State University in educational leadership with a minor in sociology.

Dr. Salazar Montoya has significant experience as an educator serving as a district leader, administrator, teacher and author. Her professional background includes involvement in many professional organizations, including ALAS, where she graduated from the Superintendent Leadership Academy and the AASA Latina/o Aspiring Superintendent Academy. She also serves on the national education council for Gamma Beta Phi National Honor Society and she serves on a number of other local and regional non-profit boards.

During her doctoral studies and beyond LeAnne has had numerous research and academic opportunities that have impacted her research interests and instruction. Stemming from her work with Dr. Kristen Kew (NMSU) her research interests include women and the superintendency and women in leadership and diversifying leadership in our K12 schools. Her work with teachers/principals and other school leaders throughout the four corners continue to drive her interests and to inform her research focus. Dr. Salazar-Montoya has published in the Journal for Research in Education and presented at numerous conferences and research events throughout the country.

As an assistant professor, she prepares and supports aspiring school leaders as they study and prepare to take on school leadership positions. She leverages her past experiences and networks to help students increase their organizational effectiveness and efficiency and ensure high performance and support to schools.

Contact Information:

Dr. LeAnne Salazar Montoya


Phone: (505) 927-6797