With over two decades of service in TK-12 public education, Dr. Sonal Patel brings a remarkable depth and breadth of practitioner knowledge to her ferocious passion for school reform. This fire was forged in the classroom, where her approach to learning has always been grounded in humanizing, culturally sustaining, and antiracist pedagogy that elevates historically underserved students and their families.
Her expertise has been honed through a myriad of school-based positions, starting as a Spanish bilingual paraeducator, elementary classroom teacher, literacy specialist, instructional coach, and high school associate principal. Most recently, she has expanded her influence as a senior district leader, where she integrates the current shifts in the local and national educational landscape in a way that reflects her critically unflinching commitment to justice. She currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the San Leandro Unified School District, which has been nationally recognized for demonstrable equity and inclusion success. In all of these roles, she has remained a staunch advocate for universally accessible learning experiences, empowering teacher leadership, multidimensional professional development, and authentic community engagement.
Dr. Patel also serves as a continuing lecturer at UC Berkeley’s School of Education, where she cultivates power and promise in both the Berkeley Teacher Education Program (BTEP) and the Principal Leadership Institute (PLI). Within the BTEP program, she labors alongside future educators to design responsive, critical literacy instruction using universal design for learning principles. Dr. Patel has also taught the student teaching practicum course, wherein pre-service teachers develop multilingual, assets-based pedagogies, and collaborative family partnerships. Her support for future school leaders in PLI fosters leadership through the critical revisioning and use of federal, state, and local policies in order to create more just and democratic schools.
Dr. Patel serves on advisory boards for Teaching Tolerance (now Learning for Justice) and other education advocacy groups in order to stay in conversation with social justice communities. Her ongoing education is also strengthened as a member of an international teacher education advisory group led by the Arctic University of Tromsø, Norway, and includes the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and UC Berkeley’s School of Education.
Dr. Patel earned a BA in Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz, an MA in Education from UC Berkeley, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice from California State University, East Bay. She has her Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with Bilingual certification in Spanish and an Administrative Services Credential.