Administrative Staff

Mariel Butan

Mariel Butan

Executive Director

Mariel Butan, a Big Sky resident since 2017, brings years of education and nonprofit management experience to Morningstar Learning Center. Mariel earned her Master’s Degree in Education Administration and was working in the higher education world before transitioning to the birth through grade 12 sphere. For several years, she was a manager for a national program that helped other individuals develop equity in their public school systems. Mariel has supported domestic and international organizations with operations, professional learning, human resources, evaluation, and communications and cares deeply about using her skills and experiences to help people live better lives. She’s grateful to be living in the natural beauty of Big Sky and working to support this wonderful community. Contact Mariel with questions about partnering with Morningstar, fundraising and events, and scholarships.

Laura MacPherson

Laura MacPherson

Center Director

Laura MacPherson earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Management and Outdoor Education and holds an American Montessori Society Early Childhood teaching credential. She is currently obtaining her certificate in School Management and Leadership and has been the director of a local early learning program for the past 7 years. Previously, she was a Lead Early Childhood Teacher at a preschool in Bozeman and was the Head of School at a Montessori Preschool in Big Sky. She has experience working in a multitude of childcare settings, including daycares, outdoor schools, and camps. Laura brings Morningstar experience communicating with organizational stakeholders, developing and maintaining quality programs and standards, and creating sustainable and holistic development plans. As a parent of a three-year-old, she understands the needs of working families in our community and plans to support Morningstar in offering quality early learning in Big Sky. Contact Laura with questions about enrollment, programs, employment, and licensing.

Leslie Ammons

Leslie Ammons

Office Manager

Leslie lives in Big Sky with her significant other, Ryan. She was born and raised in western Montana in a wild and loving family of seven. She has four awesome nieces and nephews. Leslie believes in cultivating courage and grace in our youngest generation to pursue meaningful opportunities and embrace challenges. She studied business administration, and her professional background is primarily in health and wellness and the legal field. She is very grateful for the opportunity to serve on the MLC team.

Pre-Kindergarten Program

Kelsey Hash

Lead Teacher

I’m Kelsey Hash and originally from Southern CA. I moved to Montana about 7 years ago to attend Montana State University in Bozeman and fell in love with this place. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and have been working with children in and out of the classroom for about 4 years. I have a strong background in early childhood education, emphasizing in social and emotional development in children ages 0-8 years. I love to be outside hiking, hanging out by a lake, relaxing with friends and drinking coffee.

Nell Thalhamer

Lead Teacher

Renee Carter

Assistant Teacher

Karen Lampos

Assistant Teacher

Toddler Program

Mindy Rebholz

Lead Teacher

Mindy was born and raised in Illinois, where she studied Education until moving to Big Sky four years ago. Mindy enjoys teaching the children of MLC how to be independent with self-care and loves to watch them learn and grow. When Mindy is not teaching, she spends as much time with her husband and little girl as she can!

Ilse Kludt Barba

Lead Teacher

Sheila Perez Mendez

Assistant Teacher

Madison Cluff

Assistant Teacher

Infant Program

Mayra Amparan

Lead Teacher

Hi, my name is Mayra! I am originally from Mexico and have lived in the US for over 20 years. I moved from California to Montana seven years ago. I have 3 children ranging in age from 4 years old to high school. I love working with babies!

Brenda Leanos

Lead Teacher

Brenda was born in Chicago, IL.  She has spent most of her life in Mexico and is bilingual in Spanish and English.  She went to school in Chicago and is married with two sons. She has been living in Big Sky since August 2017.  It is different than what she is used to, but is really loving the change.   Her family relocated for her husband’s job and plans on being here for the next few years.  She is grateful and proud to be a part of Morningstar Learning Center.

Loren Bixby

Assistant Teacher

Hi, my name is Loren! I’m originally from Michigan and have lived in Montana for about eight years. I
have a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University. Fun fact: I have a dual citizenship and am
both Canadian and American.

Angela Marshall

Assistant Teacher

Board of Directors

Stephanie Kissell

Stephanie Kissell

President

Stephanie Kissell grew up in Washington State and moved to Big Sky with her husband in December 2005. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education with an Elementary Education endorsement and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Literacy Specialization. She taught elementary grades at Ophir School for eight years before taking time off to raise her children.  In 2016 she became the Executive Director of Morningstar, however, she desired to serve MLC in a different capacity after the birth of her son.  Becoming a member of the board seemed a logical way to merge her passion for education with service.  She hopes that her background as an educator and as former director of MLC will be an asset to this board and to the children and families of Big Sky.

Maren Dunn-Chandler

Maren Dunn-Chandler

Vice President

Maren Dunn Chandler is a family medicine physician and a member of the Big Sky Medical Center medical staff. Dr. Chandler has practiced in Big Sky since 2011. A graduate of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, she completed her residency at Idaho State University Family Medicine, then practiced in rural communities in Idaho and Oregon. Dr. Chandler first became involved at Morningstar as a parent and then as a Board Member.  She values the service Morningstar provides to Big Sky’s families and enjoys volunteering on the board as a way to help meet the daycare and early childhood education needs of our community.

Danielle Miller

Danielle Miller

Treasurer

Danielle Miller moved to Montana in 2005 to attend MSU in Bozeman.  Soon after she met her husband, Justin, and moved to Big Sky in 2007.  Just like many locals, she’s worked for several local businesses and in 2015 joined her husband’s business, Big Sky Land Management.  Over the years she’s been part of the Big Sky Chamber, Big Sky Rotary, and volunteered for numerous other organizations and HOAs.  In 2019 she and her husband were blessed with a little girl and now she’s excited to volunteer and be part of the MLC Board.

Jodi Daily

Jodi Daily

Board Member

I am excited to be a part of the Morningstar Board as a business owner, community member and a parent. With a BS in Business from the University of Georgia, and as the owner of two businesses in Big Sky, I am looking forward to bringing my expertise to the organization. As a long time community member, I have always felt grateful to call Big Sky home. My husband and I have two children, both of which have attended Morningstar and one happy dog named Sonny (who has not). I look forward to serving my community and our children as a board member.

Alanah Griffith

Alanah Griffith

Board Member

I was born while my parents lived in Big Sky, MT, but was raised outside of Bozeman.  I returned to Big Sky a few years ago to join my law firm with another Big Sky attorney and open Griffith & Cummings, PLLC.  My practice focuses primarily on contracts (business, real estate, construction and Owner Association law.) My husband works for the Big Sky School District as the IT director, where our nine year old attends school.  Before leaving Bozeman, I volunteered for and served on the Board of a number of non-profits, including Eagle Mount and Reach, Inc.  I also represent a number of Montana Non-Profits.  I hope that my experience with other non-profits will serve MLC.

Wes Hoecker

Wes Hoecker

Board Member

Wes Hoecker owns and operates Two Pines Properties in Big Sky with his wife, Alex. Wes is an outdoor enthusiast with a commitment to facilitating community partnerships.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Board Member

Mackenzie Johnson is the Program Manager for the Big Sky Community Organization and has been successful in building programs, special events and activities from scratch. She possesses a passion for the outdoors, health and wellness. She specializes in youth programming and environmental education and has a professional certificate in Nonprofit Administration. She lives in Big Sky with her husband and infant daughter.