Education

The McGillis School teaches children to live and learn through deep-seated values

SALT LAKE CITY — The McGillis School has experienced tremendous growth since 1992, when its first class of 12 students was enrolled at the Jewish Community Center. Now in its fourth decade, McGillis is home to nearly 400 K-8 students who spend their school days in the historic, light-filled Douglas School building on 1300 East in Salt Lake City.

Summit County and Park City parents can take full advantage of McGillis with its new bus services to Summit County through its partnership with Judge Memorial High School. Now, the bus service safely transports children to and from school through snow or shine.

The McGillis School is an independent, nonprofit school and is proud to be a place where people of all backgrounds, faiths, and perspectives have found a place to belong. McGillis observes the Jewish holiday calendar, and it remains rooted in its founding Jewish values:

“Our values serve as our North Star,” said Jim Brewer, Head of School. “They inform everything we do as a community. We always hope to nurture in our students a love of learning and the abilities to be critical thinkers, live ethically, and appreciate every individual.”

The School incorporates its values every day throughout all grades. It also puts those values in action through Ethics in Action days, when students of all grades participate in service projects with local organizations, such as Wasatch Community Gardens and the Utah Food Bank. Last year, in partnership with Tree Utah and in the spirit of Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam), the School launched an annual community event called TREEkun Olam, when students, teachers, parents, and even grandparents gather to plant trees in neighborhoods in need of ecological restoration and improved green spaces.

“These values are not something that are just on a poster; they are lived and taught every day at McGillis,” said Cielita Lopez-Lennon, current McGillis parent. “The culture of respect and being a good human are at the center of the School and it sets McGillis apart from any other school our children previously attended.”

McGillis is accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools. It is also a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) member. NAIS schools, although inspired by differing missions and philosophies, are similar in the fact they are nonprofit, private schools guided by independent board of trustees and supported through tuition payments and charitable contributions.

The School consists of three divisions: Lower School (K-5), Middle School (6-8), and The Learning Center (3-7, expanding into 2nd and 8th grades next year). Graduates of McGillis go on to attend both independent and public high schools in the Salt Lake area and beyond.

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The Learning Center (TLC) in particular is truly unique in Utah education. The only school of its kind in the state, it embraces students with language-based learning differences (dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia) with its individualized school-within-a-school model. TLC students receive highly individualized core-subject instruction in groups of between three and six students and then integrate with the rest of the School for all other subjects and events.

“These students with language-based learning differences are bright, they are capable, and they are smart. We want students to come in and be a part of this program and recognize their potential,” said Mary Kimball, TLC Director.

Jessie Coyle, Lower School Director, is new to McGillis this school year after 16 years working in international schools from Amsterdam to Kenya to Taiwan.

“My interview process with McGillis was so special I decided to take a leap of faith and move,” said Coyle. “During my initial interview, I saw how much the McGillis teachers and the greater community cared about their students. There is nothing my colleagues will not do to support our students, and it is wonderful to work in a school that puts students first, cultivates a culture of kindness, and works hard to live its values. McGillis is truly a special place, and I am so glad I choose to be a part of this community.”

Embracing neurodiversity through the TLC is one way in which McGillis practices its values. The McGillis School’s values go hand-in-hand with its Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Belonging program. The program teaches students to stand against racism, approach and encounter differences with grace, and honor students’ individuality and journeys.

The school also offers Outdoor Environmental Education, music, art, and athletics to create well-rounded students and individuals.

“We have a world in need of repair, and McGillis has a history of cultivating humans who care about their planet, about diversity and belonging, about others, and we aim to make a difference,” said Brewer.

McGillis is now accepting applications for the 2023/2024 school year. Parents who are interested in next year or as far out as the 2025/2026 school year can sign up for private tours. Visit the McGillis School website for more in-depth information, testimonials, and a video library.

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