Award Year: 2021

McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School

1230 South Grant Street
Denver, CO, 80210-1521

(720) 424-5600

Mrs. Sonia Elizabeth Geerdes, Principal at time of Nomination

Choice School

Denver Public School District

School Website

School FaceBook


McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School fosters a love of learning through experiential education, individualized approaches, and supporting the growth of the whole child.

Student Demographics
  • Black/African American: 4%
  • White: 59%
  • Hispanic: 28%
  • Asian: 2%
  • Two or more races: 6%
McKinley-Thatcher Students at Play

McKinley-Thatcher Students at Play

In 2014, McKinley-Thatcher Elementary was poised on the edge of closing, plagued by low enrollment, fiscal instability, and the lowest rating on the school district's performance framework. The school struggled to meet the needs of its students of color and had several consecutive years of failing marks in supporting minority families. Something needed to change, and, in 2015, the school and its community began a journey into rediscovery and a new identity.

In a multi-year process, staff partnered with students, families, and neighbors to develop their new mission and vision by identifying the things that mattered most to their community. What surfaced was a deep commitment to learning experiences in a hands-on environment, community connection, and exploration of global perspectives. As a small school, McKinley-Thatcher provides highly individualized approaches to student learning and goal-setting. This dedication also led to a focus on developing opportunities for students to acquire social-emotional skills, empathy, and resilience.

Today, McKinley-Thatcher is doubling their enrollment and recently expanded the building to include modern, flexible classroom spaces and a state-of-the-art STEM lab. They have been recognized for their success in narrowing achievement gaps for their students of color and attribute this incredible growth to a unique professional development program for their staff. Teachers work weekly in collaboration to deepen their instructional expertise, learn how to support students' social and emotional needs, and to strengthen the tasks that students engage in every day. At McKinley-Thatcher, we inspire authentic, joyful learners who are ready to explore the world!