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About Us

 
Katie Estes,
Director
Hello! My name is Katie Estes and I am new to Montana, just moving here this past January 2019 from Ellensburg, Washington. I graduated in 2018 from Central Washington University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Education hoping to start my Master’s program in the fall of 2019 in Educational Leadership online through WGU. When I am not working with children, in my free time I love to go fly fishing, hike, read and be anywhere outside with friends. I absolutely love to be around children and have always wanted to provide a safe learning environment for children to grow as learners and set them up for success. I am passionate about education and believe that every child should have access to high quality education and be taught by exceptional teachers who love what they do. This is what I hope to help provide here in Bozeman at The Gathering Place: A Child Learning Center at the Bozeman United Methodist Church.
 
Our Philosophy

The Gathering Place will be a child learning center that is play-based and child-centered. In a play-based program, children are given the autonomy to choose activities based on their current interests. They can have the freedom to choose what is out for them to play with, then you base your curriculum around what they are interested in.

We believe that children learn best through play in a safe and nurturing environment. The play-based preschool philosophy is designed to enrich the whole child, including social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and creative development. We also include emergent learning which ties into their play through curriculum that is closely connected to what they are interested in and follows the Montana Early Learning Standards and Head Start Program Performance Standards. It is a term used to describe a flexible pedagogical approach that relies on the children’s interests and the circumstances of the day to dictate the learning content.
 
One of our other main priorities is to have open communication with families and their caregivers, to be a team and to build relationships with one another.
 
The Gathering Place: A Child Learning Center is owned and operated by Bozeman United Methodist Church but is a secular preschool, open to all and prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or age.
406-551-7215
121 S. Willson Ave.,
Bozeman, MT 59715
 
Parking & Drop Off Info:

For drop off and pick up you can park in the back alley or in the Dokken-Nelson parking lot. For longer periods of time you can park on the side streets labeled daycare parking or along Willson, Olive, or Grand. Please respect the signs on the roads and parking lots dedicated to other businesses, thank you.

 
 
 
More Gathering Place Staff
 
Samantha Stith (Assistant Director):
 
My name is Samantha Stith. Together, my husband and I have five children, aged between 0-13 years.  My family and I moved to Bozeman about 10 years ago and that’s when I began working in early childhood.  I graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from University of Montana Western and I am currently attending school, to further my degree.  My favorite food is ice cream and in my spare time, I love spending time with my family, watching my children’s sporting events, and anything Harry Potter or Star Wars.
Shelby Lowell (Two’s Teacher): 
 
My name is Shelby Lowell, I am a Midwest transplant to Bozeman to live with my Husband Michael. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Iowa State University in Liberal Studies and experience working with children through multiple avenues. In my spare time I love to play with my dog Astor, watching movies, going to rodeos/ ropings, watching movies and spending time with friends and family.
Amelia Tugman (Toddler Teacher):
 
My name is Amelia Tugman and I am currently studying Human Development and Family Science at Montana State University. Some of my hobbies include reading, petting dogs, drinking coffee and hanging out with friends. My favorite food is cheese and pineapple pizza! 
Courtney Klutz (Infant Teacher):

Hi! My name is Courtney, I just recently moved to Bozeman this August from Washington State! I have a bachelors in Family and Child Life and a bachelors in Psychology. I studied dynamics within the family unit, parenting styles, developmental psychology and attachment theory. In my spare time I like to play with my kitty, Chandler, watch movies or Netflix, and go on adventures with my friends!

Megan Strong (Two’s Teacher):

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) fishing and farming with my family. I moved to Bozeman about three years ago for college. I’ve been in early childhood education programs for the past five years as a lead teacher, assistant teacher and classroom aide. I am going to school online for a degree and license in Special Education teaching. I love baseball, coffee, Pop-Tarts and hiking! I have a dog named Stella, who will even come visit our classroom every once in awhile! She is a very good girl who also likes hiking and Pop-Tarts.

Shanoah Eck (Two’s Teacher):
 
I’m Shanoah Eck! I was born and raised in Bozeman, and am currently a senior at Montana State University studying psychology and business. I fill my free time with homework, Fresh Life Church, Young Life club, and leading the youth group here at BUMC! I am an avid lover of the Minnesota Wild NHL team, sushi, and New Girl. I just got back from studying abroad in Malta, which is a VERY small island below Italy! While I was there I got the opportunity to travel to Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, and England. Although I loved my time there I am so happy to be back in Bozeman, surrounded by the mountains, good coffee, and my friends and church community.
Stefanie Brown (Toddler Teacher):
 
Hi! My name is Stefanie! I grew up in central Ohio, bounced back and forth from California and Texas for the past six years. I moved to Bozeman this past December to plant roots. I’m a mom to 3 ½ year old twin boys! I’ve been on a career sabbatical for the past few years raising my boys. Before having children I was working on my prerequisites for nursing school. I love doing anything outdoors and spending quality time with my kids. I’m passionate about creating quality child care with the focus on creative learning. I know how important it is as a parent to want to feel excited about your child’s environment when you’re at work. I’m looking forward to meeting all of you parents and your little ones!
Milani Burke (Preschool Teacher):
 
Hi! My name is Milani Burke, I enjoy running, playing basketball, and hanging out with friends and family. I have been working in the early childhood field for the past five years. I am planning on going back to school next year majoring in Elementary Education.
Caitlin Henry (Assistant Teacher):
 
Greetings! My name is Caitlin. I am a Montana native born and raised in Bozeman. I am attending school at MSU Gallatin college working on my degree as a Medical Assistant and Surgical Technician. I have two children Alexa and Roman they are 2 and 4 years in age and I have a wonderful partner his name is Elliott. We enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and hiking as well as family game nights. We love to be involved with the community and events. I look forward to working with families and getting to know your children.
Tana Babb (Two’s Teacher):
 
Hello! My name is Tana Babb and I am currently a sophomore at Montana State University studying film and photography. I grew up in the small town of Absarokee, Montana where I graduated as Valedictorian. In my free time I enjoy playing my guitar, saxophone, and singing as well as skiing, camping, rafting, and spending time with friends. 
New Staff:

Gina Houston (Cook): 

Gloria Lemke (Assistant Teacher):

Abby Rooker (Assistant Teacher):

Mia Foust (Assistant Teacher):