Administrative Staff

Mariel Butan

Mariel Butan

Executive Director

Mariel Butan is the Executive Director of Morningstar Learning Center, managing MLC’s finances, development, advocacy, and community outreach, ensuring that MLC can continue serving families for years to come.

Mariel earned her master’s degree in Education Administration and has over a decade in education and nonprofit management experience. She has worked with local, national, and international organizations on strategic planning, finances, and operations, and she cares deeply about using her skills and experience to help people live better lives. Creating better opportunities for teachers, working families, and their children is a major driver of her work.

In her role with MLC, Mariel is determined to improve access, affordability, and quality of early learning not just in our community, but across the sector, as she champions early childhood education’s critical importance for brain development and the economy. So far, that work has included launching need-based tuition assistance, leading the board through a strategic planning process, improving enrollment and operating systems, speaking with business leaders and elected representatives, and raising over $2.7 million to keep MLC open and to support increased pay, housing, and professional development for teachers.

Mariel is grateful to have called Big Sky home since 2017 and has many loves and hobbies; she wouldn’t want to make any of them feel bad by highlighting another as her favorite. Contact Mariel with questions about supporting, partnering with, or advocating for Morningstar and early learning.

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.

Stacy Poutas

Stacy Poutas

Administrative Coordinator

Stacy is originally from Newton, MA and moved to Big Sky in April 2023 with fiancé, Rob, and 2-year-old son, Chase. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Westfield State University. Prior to moving to Big Sky she was an Administrative Assistant with the Needham (MA) Police Department and an Emergency Dispatch Supervisor with the Newton (MA) Police Department. She loves spending time outdoors with her family boating and at the beach in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter. Stacy is looking forward to being an involved member of the MLC and Big Sky community.

Teaching Staff

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!

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!

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.

Renee Carter

Renee Carter

Assistant Teacher

Renee moved to Big Sky from Richmond, Virginia 6 1/2 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.

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

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

Assistant Teacher

Loren grew up in Northern Michigan and moved to Montana in 2011 after graduating with a bachelors degree from Northern Michigan University. She has worked with infants and toddlers for the last three years. She enjoys cross country skiing, hiking, canoeing, camping and going to concerts. Loren loves living in the mountains and has lived in Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming and has settled in Montana. Loren is a mom of two boys, Arlo and Bill.

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.

Eva Pajuelo

Eva Pajuelo

Assistant Teacher

I’m Eva Pajuelo. I’m from Peru and I have recently graduated from a Peruvian University in international business. My life had a little twist when I came to Montana because I started babysitting to get extra income and I noticed I have a strong passion for education and kids. That’s why I’m part of Morningstar now. There are different aspects of my life that define me and make me who I am. The first one is the love of my family and friends back home. My dogs, Toffee and Leo, have a big space in my heart and life. My favorite color is purple, and my hobbies are traveling, snowboarding, and watching Netflix series. Big Sky is my second home and I’m glad I can finally start a new adventure here with my dog Toffee.

Emily Ibarra

Emily Ibarra

Assistant Teacher

Hi, My name is Emily and I was born and raised in New Jersey but have lived in New York City, San Diego, and Lima, Peru. I have a degree in Sociology from CUNY Hunter College and paid my way through school with nannying and waitressing. After 6 years in the Big Apple, I felt tired and unsatisfied. Luckily, I had a friend who had moved to Big Sky and encouraged me to visit. A one-way ticket and 3 months of couch surfing later. I’ve been in town for 2 years and am so excited for this chapter of my life and my emerging career as an early childhood educator. 

Ellianna Belmont

Ellianna Belmont

Assistant Teacher

Ellianna grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado and moved to Big Sky in 2022 after spending 2 years at school in Nebraska. She has been teaching dance to kids of all ages for 7 years and babysitting kids ages 0-8 since she was 13. She loves teaching kids and is so excited to be in a new classroom setting here at Morningstar. Outside of school, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, try new things, spend time outdoors, and dance. 

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.