Administrative Staff

Mariel Butan

Mariel Butan

Executive Director

Mariel Butan has been the Executive Director of Morningstar Learning Center since 2021 and has been a member of the Big Sky community since 2017. Mariel earned her master’s degree in Education Administration and has over a decade in education and nonprofit management experience. She has supported domestic and international organizations and cares deeply about using her skills and experiences to help people live better lives. Mariel was working in higher education before transitioning to K-12 and ultimately early childhood due to a desire to have more impact on this critical time in human development.

Justice is one of Mariel’s core values, and creating better opportunities for working families and their children is a major driver of her work. In Big Sky, she’s known for her tireless passion for improving access, affordability, and quality of early learning in our community. In her first year and a half at MLC, that has looked like implementing need-based tuition assistance, updating MLC’s enrollment model, and raising over $2.2m to support increased pay, housing, and professional learning for teachers.

Mariel lives in Big Sky with her partner and loves horseback riding, snow, hiking, skiing, snow, traveling, reading, cooking, and snow. 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.

Andrea Minert

Andrea Minert

Assistant Center Director

Andrea brings over 20 years of early childhood experience to MLC. She is a graduate of the College for Early Childhood Education in Sacramento, CA. She worked in a variety of early childhood settings, including working as a Toddler and Preschool teacher and is a former Infant teacher here at MLC. She has focused a majority of her career as a professional nanny, post partum Doula, and Infant and Toddler specialist. Andrea is excited to be part of the MLC leadership team and is looking forward to getting to know the MLC community again!

Kimberly Vitou

Kimberly Vitou

Office Manager

Originally from New Jersey, Kim moved to Big Sky in August 2022 with her husband Jeremy and their three boys. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts Management and has since worked in many hotel pastry kitchens along the Las Vegas Strip. After having her children, her focus shifted from tiered wedding cakes to tenacious toddlers and she brings her management experience and interpersonal skills to her position as MLC’s Office Manager. In her free time, Kim enjoys baking with her kids and exploring the beautiful Big Sky community they now call home.

Teaching Staff

Renee Carter

Renee Carter

Assistant Teacher

Renee moved to Big Sky from Richmond, Virginia 4 years ago to be closer to her 2 daughters. Renee attended Radford University for Finance and Insurance and later majored in education at the University of Richmond. She brings her Kindergarten and 3rd grade teaching experience to our Preschool class. Renee enjoys playing golf and all Cleveland Sports and is blessed to be part of the Big Sky community.

Kelsey Sick

Kelsey Sick

Lead Teacher

​Kelsey is originally from southern California and moved to Montana 12 years ago. She obtained her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Montana State University and has worked with children of all ages for almost 10 years with an emphasis on Social Emotional Development. Kelsey enjoys hiking, relaxing by a lake, and drinking coffee.

Sloan Dalrymple

Sloan Dalrymple

Lead Teacher

Hello! My name is Sloan Dalrymple and my family and I have just moved to Montana from Colorado. I have been working with children of all ages 0-12 years old for 10 years now. I have my teaching certificates in Infant Nursery Supervision, Early Childhood Education and my Director’s Certificate in Early Childhood Education. I am about to finish up my Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education. I plan to continue my education even further! My passion is working with children and creating relationships to make a difference in the lives of children and in the world. Kids are so fun and give you a whole new perspective on life when the adulting aspects in life get tough! I love learning and sharing that learning with the younger generations in order to create successful futures for all. I am so excited to be a part of the Morningstar Learning Team!

Hillary Murdock

Hillary Murdock

Lead Teacher

I’m Hillary Murdock and I am from Lodge Grass, Montana. I received my Associates Degree in Elementary Education from the Little Big Horn College in 2021 and hope to pursue my career even further in education. Whether it was being a dance teacher, a pediatrician, or elementary school teacher, I wanted to do it as long as I could be around kids. Being able to watch children grow and knowing that I have been a big part of their lives is really, really special to me. I want to be able to help mold and shape our future. I truly believe that children are our future and it is important that we provide them with the right information and tools to lead their lives in a positive way. In my spare time I love long walks by a local lakeside, hikes to the nearest waterfall, or watching late night romantic comedy reruns.

Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz

Assistant Teacher

Kylie recently moved to Big Sky from Chicago, IL. She obtained her bachelors degree at the University of Illinois and taught elementary physical education for two years. Kylie enjoys teaching and is excited for a new learning environment working with toddlers. Outside of school Kylie loves being outdoors, music, traveling, watching Chicago Cubs games, and spending time with friends and significant other.

Loren Bixby

Loren Bixby

Lead Teacher

Loren is originally from Michigan and has lived in Montana for 11 years. Loren obtained her bachelors degree from Northern Michigan University and has worked with infants and toddlers for the last two years. Loren has a dual citizenship from Canada and the USA and is a proud mom! She enjoys snowmobiling, hiking, canoeing, and camping!

Angela Marshall

Angela Marshall

Assistant Teacher

Angela was born in Bozeman and grew up in Arizona and Southern California. She graduated from ASU with a degree in Business Economics and political science. Angela has spent the last 20 years working in production. For 2 years she ran an infant/toddler program out of her home when she had her daughter.

Paige Miller

Paige Miller

Assistant Teacher

My name is Paige. I was born and raised just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m just beginning to start my journey here in Montana. I’ve been working in childcare for over 4 years and have experience with all ages 0-5. It brings me so much joy to help children learn and grow everyday! In my free time I enjoy traveling, skiing, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Ashley Franz

Ashley Franz

Assistant Teacher

Ashley moved to Big Sky in 2016, from Mechanicsville, Virginia and graduated from J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. She has a degree in Respiratory Therapy and has been living her best life in the mountains enjoying many adventures including hiking, shed hunting with her pups, kayaking, archery and cross-country skiing.  She has worked as a nanny, tutor and most recently she founded a children’s dance company and an adult performance troupe here in Montana. Her message has always been one of inclusivity, spreading love, light and positivity in all she does.  Ashley is very excited and grateful for the opportunity to be an assistant teacher (just like her mom Renee) and to bring creative movement to MLC.

Mayra Cruz

Mayra Cruz

Lead Teacher

Mayra is originally from Mexico and has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years including Montana for 8 years. Mayra has shared her compassion and love for the babies of MLC for almost 4 years. Mayra is a dedicated mother to her three children and is an excellent cook! Mayra loves anything with coconut, nuts, and the color red!

Leslie Cerros

Leslie Cerros

Assistant Teacher

My name is Leslie Cerros I was born in California but raised in Mexico. I recently moved from Oklahoma to Big Sky and I love the change. I am more than excited to work in infant rooms and provide the infants/ toddlers with an educational and fun experience. I like spending quality time with my family and traveling. I look forward to many years at Morningstar and to continue accompanying babies as they grow.
Favorite color: Red
Favorite Food: Pozole
Favorite time of year: Spring

Brenda Leanos

Brenda Leanos

Lead Teacher

Brenda moved to Big Sky 5 years ago from Colorado. She has worked with all ages at Morningstar for the last 4 years, but loves working with the Infants. Brenda is a proud mom of two boys and loves living in Montana with her family! Brenda loves tacos, chocolate, cheesecake, and the color pink!

Mindy Rebholz

Mindy Rebholz

Lead Teacher

Mindy was born and raised in Illinois, where she studied Education until moving to Big Sky 4 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!

Vanessa Thompson

Vanessa Thompson

Assistant Teacher

Vanessa is originally from Miami, FL and moved to Montana in the summer of 2022. She comes from a Cuban-American family. Vanessa graduated with a bachelors degree in Hospitality Management. She has worked as a babysitter since she was young and has managed children’s programs at luxury hotels. She truly loves creating experiences for children, as well as helping in their development. Vanessa is a proud mother to a beautiful girl! She enjoys adventures with her husband and daughter, baking, crafting, and reading romance novels.

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.

Chris Oliver

Treasurer

Chris Oliver is a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot who first started living in Big Sky part time in 2011 to fulfill a childhood dream of being a ski bum. He and his family now split their time between Austin, TX and Big Sky, spending at least part of the ski season and most of the summer in “the last best place.” Chris is heavily involved in business development and asset management, running several businesses, and managing large portfolios. He was a member of the board of directors of Warriors and Quiet Waters for seven years and currently sits on the National Advisory Board for WQW. Chris hopes that his knowledge and experience working with non-profits and business will help Morningstar grow and expand to match the needs of the Big Sky community that he has come to love.
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.

Marie Goode

Marie Goode

Board Member

Marie Goode has lived in Big Sky full time since the fall of 2002 and together with her husband Mark raised their three children here. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has nearly 15 years of experience in the business side of education. She previously worked as the district clerk at the Big Sky School District for 9 years then for almost 5 years as the business/office manager of Big Sky Discovery Academy. Marie was also a charter member of a local Early Childhood Enrichment Fund Board which was responsible for raising funds and awarding scholarships for early childhood programs. Her passion for education and children led her to serve on the Morningstar Learning Center Board of Directors. She wholeheartedly believes in and supports Morningstar’s mission and vision for the Big Sky community.

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.

Ben Holst

Ben Holst

Board Member

Ben is a husband to Kim, father to Isaiah, Dominic, Lincoln, coach of many sports, and jack of all trades. He joined Lone Mountain Land Company in 2015 with 12 years’ experience in the construction industry and a Master’s of Architecture from Iowa State University. As Director of Property Management, he oversees all of LMLC’s residential and commercial properties from Big Sky to Four Corners. Since moving to Big Sky, Ben has been actively involved in building community through service on multiple non-profit boards and committees.

Allie Epstein Poalino

Allie Epstein Poalino

Board Member

Allie Epstein Poalino originally hails from the East Coast, but has called Big Sky home since 2017. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy and Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont. She currently practices as a local Physical Therapist and is the Director of Marketing at Lone Peak Physical Therapy. With her first-hand management experience, Allie understands the unique demands Big Sky places on our local businesses and workforce. Following the recent birth of her son Levi, Allie is highly motivated and committed to working hard as a Board Member at MLC to further establish childcare solutions and early childhood education for local families in our community.

Michael Pitcairn

Michael Pitcairn

Board Member

Michael Pitcairn was raised in Charleston, South Carolina but always had a passion for traveling to the mountains. Michael and his wife Stephanie turned their dreams into reality when they moved to Big Sky in 2017 to start a family. Their son Grayson has been attending MLC since he was 6 months old and will be followed by his baby sister Stella in the coming months. Michael and Stephanie are so thankful to have MLC in the community and feel very fortunate to be able to send their children. Michael is an active real estate broker in Big Sky with over eleven years in the industry. He is excited to bring his experience to the MLC Board and help give back for all that MLC has provided to his family.