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History and Tradition

More than a quarter of a century of unwavering dedication to academic excellence.

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Mission-Driven Liberal Arts Education Since 1993

Thomas Jefferson was founded in 1993 by a group of Joplin parents who were determined to give their children an exceptional educational experience that would prepare them for success in college and in life.

TJ’s founding families, which included Debra and David Humphreys, Dr. Mike McDonald, Dr. Margaret Janssen, and Nancy and Bob Walkenhorst, determined the best way to help children reach their full potential was through a classical liberal arts education with a Western civilization focus, delivered in a highly supportive, mission-driven environment.

In late fall 1992, the founders set out to create Thomas Jefferson, forging a Mission Statement and Honor Code to guide TJ, and building the original school.

The founders chose the school’s name with care and intentionality, and developed the curriculum based on time-tested programs at some of the nation’s most successful independent schools.

In August 1993, TJ opened its doors to 185 students in Pre-Kindergarten through grade 9.

Situated on 26 acres, TJ has grown from 45,000 square feet to more than 90,000. The addition in 2011 of the Humphreys Arts and Student Life Complex doubled the size of the school facilities, enabling TJ to further develop its extremely strong arts programs, and to expand enrollment to meet growing demand for the school’s exceptional academic program. The addition includes a world-class concert hall, Upper School library, commons area, courtyard, foreign languages lab, several classrooms, small group rooms, a second art studio, and music rooms.

In 2014, the school community dedicated the J.P. Humphreys Track and Field Complex, honoring a man who worked to improve education in the region and who donated the land for the school. TJ rededicated the Dr. Pat Doody Memorial Tennis Complex in 2016.

Today, TJ has approximately 345 students enrolled in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Since its inception, TJ has distinguished itself academically, artistically, and athletically at the state and national level.

TJ graduates regularly receive impressive enrollment and merit scholarship offers at a wide variety of colleges and universities, including some of the most prestigious schools in the country.

Our Mission

Through a dedication to academic excellence, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School stands accountable for educating students to make the most of their abilities.

The School educates students to acquire and refine essential academic knowledge and skills; cultivate an appreciation of the arts; develop lifelong fitness skills; assume responsibility for their behavior; seek out challenge, welcome criticism, test new capacities; practice self-discipline; and find joy in learning.

The school brings students together with teachers who exemplify intellectual curiosity, a dedication to truth, and the advantages of living the examined life.

Great TJ Traditions

Since its founding in 1993, traditions have been integral to Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School’s identity, signaling to the school, our TJ family, and to the greater community what TJ values.

Flag-raising Ceremony: During this first-day ceremony for the entire TJ community, the Head of School introduces the senior class. The seniors then welcome all students and faculty as they enter the school building, and, likewise, the faculty and students wish the seniors well on their final year.

All-school Picnic: This tradition brings the school community together and builds bonds between students in different grade levels at the beginning of each school year through participation in field events by buddy pairs.

Committing to Honor Code: At the start of each school year, all of our students pledge to conduct themselves with integrity, compassion, respect, honesty, and other key principles.

Grandparents Day Celebration: TJ honors grandparents with music and theatrical performances, a dessert reception, grandparent portraits, visits to TJ classrooms, and the Book Fair.

Upper School Trip: Within the first weeks of the school year, TJ students in grades 9-12 take a trip together.  This experience creates lasting bonds among the student body while allowing new students to begin building friendships.

College Trip: During spring or summer break the college counselor takes students to visit a variety of large and small, public and private colleges and universities in a specific area of the country.

Upper School Assemblies: Students in grades 9-12 meet in the Concert Hall every Wednesday during 5th period.  These assemblies include introductions to career options presented by members of the Four-States community, capstone project presentations and speeches by members of the senior class, and musical performances by local professional and student musicians.

College Cards: Throughout the school year, TJ seniors celebrate their college acceptances by gathering in the Arts Lobby and Gallery to post cards that represent their college acceptances and final decisions about matriculation.


Thomas Jefferson founded


First TJ Upper School class graduates

Nearly 400

Graduates of Thomas Jefferson


“Thomas Jefferson is a unique place because we encourage students to just be themselves and we give them the space where they can feel comfortable to do that.”

Margot Patterson, 4th Grade Language Arts teacher