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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.

 
406-551-7215
121 S. Willson Ave.,
Bozeman, MT 59715
 
Our Philosophy

The Gathering Place is 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.
 
 
Gathering Place Staff
 
Katie Estes,
Director
I am moved here 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.
Samantha Stith,
Director
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.
Courtney Klutz

Assistant Director & Family Advocate

 
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!
 
Preschool Teacher:
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.

Preschool Teacher:
Lauren Smith
 
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 Master’s 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.
Preschool Teacher:
Keeley Petrock
 
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!
Preschool Teacher:
Becky Kim
 
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. 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!”
Two’s Teacher:
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.
 
 
Two’s Teacher:
Ann Rockwell
 
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 at Sourdough Montessori. I have experience with RIE training, I have tutoried 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.
Two’s Teacher:
Claudia Ruiz
 
I was born in Glenwood, Colorado but moved here when I was a baby. Ever since I was young I have enjoyed babysitting and just spending time with kids. I enjoy bike riding, swimming, going on walks, playing volley ball and of course binge watching Netflix. When I have the chance I go to Mexico to visit my husband, we will be having a baby girl soon!
Two’s Teacher:
Sara Smith
Two’s Teacher
Jezel Dougherty

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 also working on getting my CDA (Child Development Associate) certification 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.

EHS Two’s Teacher:
Megan Strong

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

EHS Two’s Teacher:
Kathryn Kelly
 
I am a student at Bozeman High School. My family and I moved to Bozeman around 3 years ago and I absolutely love it here! When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hanging out with my amazing friends, running, biking, and spending time with my family and dog Auzzie. I love working with kids, and I hope to someday pursue a career in the psychology field.
EHS Two’s Teacher:
Annie Olson
 
I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Montana. I recently just got married and we moved to the Bozeman area. After four years I received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education(K-8) and a Minor in Reading at Rocky Mountain College, in Billings MT. While getting my bachelors I also balanced my time playing College Volleyball for all four years, by being a defensive specialist. I have worked with children for five years now and would never trade it for the world. I love knowing that I can make an impact on children’s lives and they can do the same for me. The best reward being a teacher is watching children grow in many ways. My favorite things to do in my free time are go hiking, basketball, running, spending time with my family and husband, and of course playing volleyball.
EHS Two’s Teacher:
Cece Curran
Toddler Teacher 203:
Anna Good
 
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. 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!
Toddler Teacher 203:
Katie Miklavic
 
I am a graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and recently moved to Montana in January. I am a certified early educator (PreK-4) and special educator (PreK-8) and believe that teaching children through real world experience and meeting the needs of each individual child are crucial aspects for success. My favorite thing to do in my free time is lay on the couch with my heated blanket.
 
Toddler Teacher:
Anna Cox
 
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. 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 ❤️
Toddler Teacher: 
Erin Dicks
 
I moved to Bozeman from Whitefish 5 years ago with my husband. I have grown up taking care of children and really enjoy seeing their personalities develop over time and watching them learn. In my free time I like to work on my hand embroidery, fly fishing, floating and baking.
Infant 101 Teacher:
Jessica Squires
 
I was born and raised here in Montana. I have been working with children for the past two years, I am currently taking classes so I can get my CDA Certification. 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.
 
Infant 101 Teacher:
Emma Robinson
 
I’m from Vail, Colorado and I just moved here to start a new college career at MSU. 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!
Infant 101 Teacher:
Kailey Arnold
 
I am originally from here in Bozeman, but also frequent North Carolina where my fiancé is stationed as a marine. I love to travel and see new things but I also love to cuddle up with my dogs and binge watch Netflix.
Infant 204 Teacher:
Mikayla Gulbro
 
I am 25 years old and I have been working with children for about 2 years and I absolutely enjoy it. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and helping each child based on their individual needs. I’m here to work with your children and to help them as they grow. I have a one year old son so I see first hand how precious these times are. In our spare time we love to be outdoors and do projects all around the house. I am so lucky to be the caregiver for your child and I am excited to watch them grow.
Infant 204 Teacher:
ShyAnna Notley
 
I’ve been working at The Gathering Place since December in the infant room. I really enjoy working with infants and I love watching them grow and develop into little beings. I have a daughter of my own who will be 2 in October so I have experience first hand with babies. I love working with your infants everyday and I am excited to watch their personalities grow!
Infant
Assistant Teacher:
Tana Babb
 
I am currently a student at Montana State University studying psychology. 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.
Infant 204 Teacher:
Karli Blanchard
Infant 204 Teacher:
Pamela Harvey
 
My husband Micah and I moved to Bozeman from California in 2017. We have loved every minute and love to call Montana our home! I currently am pursuing a degree at the MSU in Psychology and a minor in Human Development with a focus in Developmental Psychology. When I am not working with (or studying about) little humans and their behavior I love to be outdoors on a hike or trying to cook new dishes and meals with my husband
Kitchen Staff:
Chelsea Arnold
 
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!
Kitchen Staff:
Maggie Breen
 
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.