Mike Johnston represents Northeast Denver in the Colorado State Senate. He has lead the initiative to reform Colorado’s education system, and his works serves as a model for reform efforts across the nation.
Now in his second term, Mike joined the State Senate in 2009, filling a vacancy left by the resignation of then-Senate President Peter Groff. He is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and serve on the Senate Education Committee.
During his first year in office, Mike championed the Great Teachers and Leaders Law (SB-191), groundbreaking legislation that alters teacher evaluations by measuring student growth.
His work in education began after graduating college, when Mike became a high school English teacher in Greenville, Mississippi, through the Teach for America program. Based on this experience, he wrote “In the Deep Heart’s Core,” which describes the challenges he faced in teaching in one of our country’s most poverty-stricken areas. After earning a master’s degree in education and a law degree, Mike returned to Colorado and started his own career as a principal leading two alternative high schools serving Colorado students held in state custody or living in group homes and detention centers. In 2005, Mike became the founding principal of MESA (Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts), a redesigned urban high school in the Mapleton Public Schools that made Colorado history by becoming the first public high school in which 100 percent of seniors were admitted to four-year colleges.
In 2009, Mike opened a community office in his Northeast Denver district, becoming the first state senator to open a district office, in an effort to revitalize the neighborhood. Check out this 9News report of Mike’s office.
Before joining the Senate, Mike was an educator and served as an education policy adviser to state and federal political campaigns around the country, most recently as a top education advisor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and transition. He is the co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools, a national non-profit that recruits and trains urban principals, and serves on the boards of a number of national and local community service organizations.
Mike holds degrees from Yale College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Yale Law School. A Colorado native, Mike lives in Northeast Denver with his wife Courtney, who is Deputy District Attorney in Denver, their two sons Emmet and Seamus, and their daughter Ava.