Mike Christoff (left) and TJHS graduate Emmanuel Pregon (right) at Signing Day.
Growing up in the suburbs of Youngstown, Ohio, Michael Christoff was a student teacher looking to branch out and begin his career somewhere new. Through a University of Northern Colorado job fair that he attended with a fellow student teacher, Mike first learned about DPS and remembers being attracted to its diverse environment. He got his first job in DPS at Lake Middle School, where he worked for nine years before moving to Morey Middle School, and ultimately landing at Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS).
Now in his fifth year as the principal at TJHS, Mike’s passion to encourage and celebrate diversity has become a driving force in providing all of his students with opportunities that will allow them to make positive impacts in the world.
“That’s what I love about my job. Feeling like I can make positive change in this world.”
When reflecting on his own experiences, Mike said, “The reality is school isn’t what it was like when I was in high school. It’s different. It’s no longer just the place where kids go to school and then go home. It’s the place where kids come to get fed, vaccinations, mental health support, clothes, etc. It’s essentially a community center where we also teach kids, and we try really hard to provide all of those services because we know they need them.”
Thomas Jefferson High School provides many resources to its students, but what Mike is most proud of is the real-life experience kids get when they’re at TJ.
“Kids have a choice between going to TJ or going to a suburban school. Many families are staying in Denver and choosing TJ and I love it because it adds diversity to our school. It gives a more real-world feel for kids. It gives them the opportunity to see that there’s kids who don’t look like them and don’t live in houses that look like theirs, but they all want to do well in their classes and they’re actually not so different from each other in a lot of ways.”
To encourage diversity and equity, Mike and his staff at TJHS are actively working toward having AP, honors, and concurrent enrollment classes reflect the rest of TJHS’ diverse student body. By identifying students of color who should be in AP classes, TJHS staff are reaching out to encourage them to take AP classes, giving them the support they need, and providing resources to help them understand what they will gain in those classes.
“Our goal is to give kids access to these types of courses and showing them what they are, while also being intentional about connecting with their families. That way, we’re all in it together. I want our kids to leave here feeling like they got a quality education and that someone really cared about them.”
As DPS continues to work toward equitable education for all DPS students, Mike urges all members of Team DPS to continue striving to provide the best education possible for our kids. He hopes that by coming together, we can better recognize students and families who are struggling, and jump into action to help.
“We’re here for all of our kids and to make them feel like they have a place that sets them up to do whatever is that they want.”