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 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.
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!
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.
Kelsey Hash Sick
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
Kimberly Potocki grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York and spent most her of adult life exploring and living in different big cities along the east coast. In June 2022, she took a leap of faith and moved her large family of six to Big Sky, MT for a lifestyle and career change. Kim has a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication and a Master’s Degree in Public Relations, but has always circled back to education, whether through musical instruction, coaching sports, mentoring high school and college students, or teaching children in a classroom or childcare setting. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is phrase Kim lives by and instills in her working with others. She is a dedicated mother to her four children, a devoted wife to her college sweetheart, and a patient teacher and coach to all children she interacts with. Kim loves to sing, dance, hike, learn about local history, and explore local, regional, and national parks.
Transitional Toddler Program
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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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
Board of Directors
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.