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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 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.
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.
Milani Burke
(Two’s 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.
 
 
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

Keeley Petrock
(Preschool Teacher)
 
Hi! My name is Keeley, and 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!
Ann Rockwell
(Preschool Teacher)
 
Hello! 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.
 
Maggie Breen 
(Cook/Assistant Teacher)
 
Hey all! I’m Maggie the school cook. 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.
Sami Dahl
(Infant Teacher)
 
Hi! My name is Samantha but most people call me Sami. I was born in Bozeman, Montana and raised in Belgrade, Montana. I plan on going to college to be a therapist very soon, and I’m about to start school for my Child Development Associate (CDA) certification through a program that works with The Gathering Place. I have been working with kids on and off for about 8 years, I’ve worked with kids ranging from newborns to 16 years old. I find human development and human behavior very interesting. I love spending time with my family, we all enjoy listening to music and watching TV together. I have 2 kids one 2 year old son and one 16 year old step son.
 
 
Mia Foust
(Two’s Teacher)
 
Hi! My name is Mia Foust. I have been living in Bozeman for the past 3 years or so, though I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. I have a Bachelors in Biology and am currently pursuing Master’s at MSU. I love to go swimming, dogs, and cooking on campfires.
Shanoah Eck
(Infant 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.
Amelia Tugman
(Toddler Teacher) 
 
My name is Amelia Tugman and I am currently studying Human Development and Family Science at Montana State University. I recently transferred from Central Washington University to help start a collegiate church at MSU! The past few years I have worked in various daycares, mainly with infants and toddlers. Some of my passions include reading, petting dogs, drinking coffee and people’s stories. My favorite food changes often but currently it’s spicy nugs from Wendy’s and a vanilla blonde flat white (but not together).
CaitlinHenryCaitlin Henry
(Infant 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.
Gloria Lemke
(Infant Teacher)
 
Born and Raised in New Prague, Minnesota. I am the 2nd oldest of 7 children, and am very family oriented. Currently attending Gallatin College and participating in the interior design program. My hobbies include photography, painting, drawing, and listening to music.
ShyAnna Notely
(Infant Teacher)
 
Abby Rooker
(Infant Teacher)
Jezel Dougherty
(Infant Teacher)
 
Hi, my name is Jezel Dougherty and I was born in Victorville, California and have been raised in Bozeman, Montana. I plan on going to college to take course 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.
Jamie Dunn
(Two’s Teacher)
 
Whitney Truett
(Cook)
 
Hello my name is Whitney. I moved to Bozeman back in 2016, and I am originally from Oregon. I am a mother to three beautiful children. My hobbies include long back road drives with my family, I like being outdoors camping, and enjoying Montana’s fresh air, I also enjoy being home and spending time with my children in the long winter months.
Tana Babb
(Toddler Teacher)
 
Hello! My name is Tana Babb and I am currently a sophomore 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.
New Staff:
Ashley McAdam – Assistant Teacher