About Us

The Creative Curriculum:

The Gathering Place: Child Learning Center adopted The Creative Curriculum, the country’s leading scientifically based curriculum that promotes exploration and discovery as a way of learning, enabling children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills. For nearly two decades, The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers & Twos has supported teachers and caregivers as they create responsive daily routines and meaningful learning experiences for the youngest learners. We believe that our child learning center should be integrated with high-quality assessment, professional development, and family connection resources to create a well-rounded program that addresses the needs of early childhood education professionals, children, and their families.

There are many different “studies,” that our classrooms participate in throughout the year focusing on different topics that are developmentally appropriate – promoting children’s social-emotional development, and learning in the core areas of literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. This includes: Beginning the Year Study, Clothing Study, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Study, Block Study, and more. Throughout the investigation into each of these different topics, we focus on all areas of development including, social emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, math, science and technology, social studies, and the arts.

We can only begin to imagine the future careers that today’s children will take on, which is why it’s so important that we provide them with a strong foundation. Research shows that a whole child approach to education – one where children develop not only math and literacy skills but also the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive skills necessary to communicate, think both critically and creatively, and solve complex problems – is developmentally appropriate and better prepares children for life well beyond their time in a classroom.

The physical environment of our classrooms has a profound effect on individual children, the group as a whole, and the teachers. We want to provide a physical setting that is safe, attractive, comfortable, and well designed to help children engage in the activities we offer each child. The Creative Curriculum, includes interest areas, which are ideal for children to explore, make things, experiment, and pursue their interests. The Creative Curriculum classroom has defined interest areas for dramatic play, block building, toys and games, art, looking at books and writing, sand and water play, and discovery table, cooking activities, musical instruments, and computers.

Our lesson plans for these studies are created to follow our daily activities, meal times, and individualization of the children. With our curriculum we have an online program called Teaching Strategies Gold. Our teachers continually observe and enter documentation on children’s development based on these lessons, our teachers complete checkpoints four times a year which are the same time that we have our parent-teacher conferences or home visits.

Direct Phone Number:
Mailing Address:
121 S. Willson Ave.,
Bozeman, MT 59715
Fax Number:
The Gathering Place: A Child Learning Center We are a non-profit early learning center. Although we are located within Bozeman United Methodist Church, we are a secular program.

We are an Early Head Start partnership site.

Early Head Start (EHS) programs serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3, and pregnant women. EHS programs provide intensive comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers and their families, and to pregnant women and their families.” -ECLKC


Gathering Place Staff
Samantha Stith,
Together, my husband and I have six children, aged between 0-14 years.  My family and I moved to Bozeman about 10 years ago and that’s when I began working in early childhood.  I have an Associates and Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Montana Western. I am former Early Head Start and Head Start Teacher and Early Childhood Development is my passion.  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.
Megan Strong,
Assistant Director:

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.

Lauren Smith,
Preschool Teacher:
I live in Bozeman with my husband, Marshall. We are originally from the Carolinas but have settled down in Montana and absolutely love it. As an educator for the past 6 years, I am very passionate about children’s overall wellbeing as well as focusing on supporting their mental, emotional and physical needs to help the whole child be successful. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching and a Masters of Education and Learning. My experience ranges from working with children in the United States to New Zealand, a beautiful country my husband and I lived for a chapter of our lives. I look forward to encouraging your child to reach their full potential all while providing them with a safe and compassionate environment to learn and grow.
Keeley Petrock,
Preschool Teacher:
I am originally from Barre, Vermont but moved to Bozeman in August 2017. I have been teaching in a preschool setting for 4 years now and have loved every second of it! Working with children is my passion and it is my goal to make a difference in all my students’ lives. Things I enjoy outside of work are live music, being outside, animals and traveling!
Becky Kim,
Preschool Teacher:
I was born and raised in Gresham, Oregon! I have spent the past 4 years biking around Bozeman while going to school. If spending 4 winters on a road bike in Montana doesn’t build character, I don’t know what would! As a recent grad from MSU with a degree in Chemical Engineering, I’m not your average preschool teacher! While in school I also studied music education with my primary instrument being bari sax. I absolutely love working with kids and have had my foot in the babysitting game for the last 8 years and am completing my Child Development Associate. I have worked more seriously in childcare for the last year and have loved every second of it! I strive to provide an enthusiastic, loving, and compassionate environment while also teaching kids the value of doing what they love! In my free time I enjoy watching documentaries, grooving to some mean sax, hiking, biking, kayaking, cooking, reading, painting, and spending quality time with my friends and family!”
Jezel Dougherty,
Classroom Assistant:

I was born in Victorville, California and have been raised in Bozeman, Montana. I plan on going to college to take courses to become a medical assistant here in the Gallatin Valley. I am completing my Child Development Associate while working at The Gathering Place. I have 6 years of child care experience and love working with all kids! I myself have two children of my own and we love being a part of the Bozeman community, helping others and exploring the Rockies.

Milani Burke,
Preschool Teacher:
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 and I am completing my Child Development Associate.
Ann Rockwell,
Preschool Teacher:
I newly arrived in Bozeman, I went to college in the Bay Area, California. Locally, I have been a substitute, teaching assistant and have worked in a Montessori School. I am currently completing my Child Development Associate. I have experience with RIE training, I have tutored in reading, math and art with children. I have taught children in different settings and on different topics: living with wildlife in their communities, at community events and nature walks. I am a teacher, artist and a background in architecture, film, visual and computer arts.
Anna Good,
Toddler Teacher:
I was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. I have two older brothers and I love spending time with family and friends. I moved to Bozeman three years ago and I am studying psychology at Montana State University and am completing my Child Development Associate. I have worked with children for five years now and have loved every minute! Kids have taught me a lot of patience, given me motivation, and continue to inspire me every day. I have worked in all kinds of childcare settings and I have learned so much from each of them. I love to be creative in my spare time, I like to color, draw, paint, sew, and make fairy gardens. I love being outside, I like to climb, ski, camp, hike, you name it and I am there!
Anna Cox,
Toddler Teacher:
I am a born and raised Montanan and graduated from Belgrade High. I am currently attending my senior year at Montana State University, where I have been majoring in Psychology and minoring in Political Science and completing my Child Development Associate. I plan to go to law school and practice cooperate or be a state prosecutor. I love to go hiking, fishing, skiing, and work with animals in my spare time (I want a lot of cows and horses eventually). Quilting, canning, baking, and knitting are a few other hobbies of mine when bored around the house! I love working with kids and seeing their little minds develop, they make me so happy how free spirited and excited about the world they are.
Jessica Squires,
Toddler Teacher:
I was born and raised here in Montana. I have been working with children for the past two years, I am currently completing my Child Development Associate as well as continuing my early childhood education online with a variety of online classes. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my two dogs, Gus and Gunner, as well as doing a variety of art projects.
Additional Toddler Teachers:
Aubrey Carden
Olivia Cannizzo
Karli Blanchard
Kailey Arnold,
Classroom Assistant:
I am originally from Bozeman, but also frequent North Carolina where my fiancé is stationed as a Marine. I am currently working towards my Child Development Associate. I love to travel and see new things but I also love to cuddle up with my dogs and binge watch Netflix.
Emma Robinson,
Infant Teacher:
I’m from Vail, Colorado and I just moved here to start a new college career at MSU while working towards my Child Development Associate. My goal is to get a degree in Psychology and to hopefully pursue a career in the Mental Health field. My favorite things to do are skiing, camping, and going on adventures with my dog Sage Grace and of course binge watching Netflix!
ShyAnna Notley,
Infant Teacher:
I’ve been working at The Gathering Place since December in the infant room while working towards my Child Development Associate. I really enjoy working with infants and I love watching them grow and develop into little beings. I have a 2 year old daughter of my own so I have experience first hand with babies. I love working with your infants everyday and I am excited to watch their personalities grow!
Tana Babb,
Infant Teacher:
I am currently a student at Montana State University studying psychology while working towards my Child Development Associate. 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.
Additional Infant Teachers:
Emi Boyer
Mikynzi Aylesworth
Lori Martin
Additional Classroom Assistants:
Jasmin Sanchez
Shaylie Pierson
Chelsea Arnold,
Kitchen Staff:
I was born and raised right here in Bozeman. I attended Flathead Valley Community College and graduated with an associates in culinary arts.
I have two children, who attend this program.
In my free time I enjoy going fishing, taking my kids to the river, and of course watching new shows on Netflix!
Maggie Breen,
Kitchen Staff:
I am a Montana native, born and raised here in Bozeman. I am a mom to a 7 year old and we love spending our days at the river. I have been working with children for the past 10 years I love learning with kids of all ages. I am currently working towards my associate’s degree in child development and I am looking further into nutrition courses.
Additional Kitchen Staff:
Alysha Lang