Our Staff

Stephanie Byam

Stephanie Byam

Executive Director

Stephanie was born and raised in a small New England town, in southern New Hampshire.  Growing up she was actively involved in 4H, showing and volunteering at 4H camps to help educate the youth.  Stephanie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science from the State University of New York in Cobleskill.  Before venturing out west, she worked as a veterinary technician for 3 years and managed her brother-in law’s restaurant Giorgio’s.  Her love for the outdoors, mountains and of course horses brought her to Elkhorn Ranch here in Big Sky.  She spent a couple summers at Elkhorn Ranch working as a wrangler, guiding horseback rides, as well as teaching the youth (and adults) the basic fundamentals of horseback riding.  Stephanie has been in Big Sky for the past three years and loves the small community that very few of us get to call home.  

 

Stephanie’s Office Hours:

Monday through Friday: 8:30 am – 10 am or by appointment

sbyam@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Lori Van Eps

Lori Van Eps

Assistant Executive Director

Lori Van Eps is a native of Montana and been living in Big Sky the last 2 1/2 years. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and Exercise Science from Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA. She spent the first two years of teaching Middle School Physical Education and Coaching Volleyball and Track in California. Her family then relocated to Denver, Co where she worked at Denver Christian in a variety of different roles. She is very passionate about working with children, spending time with her family, loves being outside and active in this beautiful place we get to call home.

Lori’s Office Hours:
Tuesday and Wednesday: 8:30am – 10am
Or By Appointment

Lori Swenson

Lori Swenson

Preschool Lead Teacher

Lori Swenson was born and raised in New England with an older sister and a twin brother.  She lived in Massachusetts during the school year and on an island off the coast of Maine during the summer.  She obtained her degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Hampshire in 1994.  She worked in Rehabilitation in Boston for four years before striking out on her own to explore the west.  Lori moved to Montana in 1998 where she met her husband Paul, who is a Bozeman native.  They moved to Big Sky, Montana in 2009 and have made it their home to raise three beautiful children.

Lori has worked primarily in her role as an Occupational Therapist since 1994 and has had a myriad of experiences to include working in multiple school districts.  She is currently working as an outpatient pediatric OT for Epicenter Therapy Services here in Big Sky.  She is also the Thrive Parent Liaison in the Big Sky School District and is thrilled to be working part time for Morningstar Learning Center.  Lori says, “This is a great opportunity to get to know the parents of the students of Morningstar Learning Center who will soon be members of our community public school.  I look forward to each day when I see the trust in the parent’s eyes as they hand their child over into our care and we cherish that trust.  We work hard to be the helper to the parent because the parent will always be the first and most important teacher in their child’s life.”

“If I could trade places with anyone for a week, it would be my daughter Skye who has lived her whole life without the ability to talk, eat by mouth, move her body or use her vision in an effective way.  I would like to trade with her so that I may better understand her needs and have true empathy for what she endures day in and day out socially, emotionally and physically.  She would also get to live that one week in my body and experience so much she has not been able to so far.”

“I am a minimalist when it comes to “stuff”.  I like to get rid of stuff we don’t need or aren’t using.  I also do not like clutter, so I have very few trinkets or collectibles.  When asked the question, which would you clean first- house or car?  I would have to say I would clean the house because the whole family would benefit from a clean house and I have trouble organizing when everything is a mess.  After the kids helped me clean the house, I would send them out to clean my car since they are the ones leaving the mess in there in the first place.”

“Something I learned today was a strategy to help my children resolve their conflicts in the area of sibling rivalry.  It will change as each issue arises but I will be able to support them through making their own decisions and hopefully, keep my own emotions out of it.”

lswenson@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Kimberly Pechischev

Kimberly Pechischev

Preschool Lead Teacher

Kimberly moved to the beautiful Big Sky in 2015. Her love of helping others find their “aha” moment lead her to the teaching profession. She has a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from the University of Wisconsin Stout. Prior to Morningstar Learning Center, she experienced teaching opportunities in a cross section of schools as well as camp counseling for the past six years. Kimberly has a strong background in developmentally appropriate practice for all children. Some hobbies of hers include hiking, swimming, snowshoeing and woodworking projects.

kpechischev@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Michael Quisenberry

Michael Quisenberry

Preschool Aide

Michael grew up in the humid metropolis of Houston, Texas, where he engaged in Texas’ pastime, high school football. He enjoyed the discipline and comradery that playing the sport taught him. He moved to Big Sky in early 2017 to pursue a life of outdoor adventure, follow a girl, but mainly get away from the Texas heat. He enjoys fostering a curiosity in the students of Morningstar and helping them to find the answers to life with questions like, “What’s inside of worms?” In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock hunting, model building and a newly discovered taste for skiing.

Mandi Lewis-Dibble

Mandi Lewis-Dibble

Preschool Teacher's Aide

Mandi  Lewis-Dibble studied Early Childhood Education at Lake Erie College near her home town in Ohio. She has experience as a State Licensed Nursing Assistant and a Home Health Nurse. Mandi spent time as a Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace Educator on the Appalachian Trail in the role of a Ridgerunner. She came to us from Lone Peak Playhouse where she was a Teacher and a Cook. Mandi has been a resident of Big Sky since 2015 and spends her leisure time on the mountain hiking or snowboarding.

Kelsey Hash

Kelsey Hash

Toddler Three's 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.

khash@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Renee Carter

Renee Carter

Toddler Teacher's Aide

Renee Carter was born in Cleveland, Ohio.  After she graduated high school she moved to Richmond, Virginia.  She moved from Richmond to Big Sky this past Spring to be near her two daughters.  She has her Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Insurance.  She worked 12 years as an Underwriter for an Insurance Company.  She continued her education at the University of Richmond in the career switcher program where she completed her Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Applied Studies, Teacher Licensure.  She has had a variety of teaching experiences including Reading Intervention, Federal Programs Preschool, and teaching Kindergarten.  In addition to teaching, Renee enjoys yoga, golf, and her new hobby downhill skiing!  She is so appreciative for the opportunity to live and work here in the beautiful Big Sky community!

Emily Lessard

Emily Lessard

Toddler Two's Lead Teacher

Emily was raised in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Shortly after earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from UMass Amherst, she relocated to Big Sky. Previously, Emily worked in visitor education for the National Park Service at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.  Emily comes to Morningstar bringing her strong background in community outreach and environmental education. In her free time, Emily enjoys trail running, backpacking, spending time on the area’s rivers, and baking.

elessard@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Keely Larson

Keely Larson

Toddler Teacher's Aide, Dance Teacher

Keely Larson grew up in Helena, Montana where she developed her love for dance and working with children. At the age of fifteen she began to teach many dance classes in various styles. Keely moved to Bozeman to attend Montana State University and graduated with a double major in Religious Studies and History, and an additional Honors College degree. During her time at MSU, Keely continued to dance and teach dance classes at Bozeman Dance Academy, formerly Main Street Dance Theatre. The combination of studying concepts that thoroughly interest her and persistently pursing her dancing passions made Keely’s time in Bozeman extremely fulfilling. She looks forward to working on a dance curriculum for Morningstar Learning Center, continuing to teach and dance at BDA, and experiencing the Big Sky community to its fullest before she sets out to get her Master’s degree in Religious Studies.

Andrea Minert

Andrea Minert

Infant Lead Teacher

Andrea is from Mendocino, a small town on the Northern California coast, about halfway between San Francisco and the Oregon Boarder. In 1994 – 1995 she attended The College for Early Childhood Education, where she studied child development, early childhood education and childcare administration. Since then, she has worked with children in many capacities.  Her work for the past 25 years has focused primarily
on her career as a professional nanny and Infant/toddler specialist. She owns a frozen foods company, supplying nutritious and wholesome meals for infants and young children in Gallatin County.

Andrea has also been a preschool teacher and an instructional aide in both special-ed and mainstream classrooms. She has worked in group homes providing residential care for at-risk youth ages 6-17 and she was responsible for a 22-bed program for boys aged 6-12. She has also done a great deal of volunteer work with homeless and other at-risk families.  Despite the fact that she does not ski or snowboard, Andrea loves her new hometown of Big Sky, MT. The mountains, the wildlife and the amazing friends she has made in her 5.5 years here are just a few of the reasons she has stayed (despite the winters) and she hopes to stick around for many years to come.

Mindy Rebholz

Mindy Rebholz

Infant Lead Teacher

My name is Mindy Rebholz. I am originally from Pontiac, Illinois. I grew up in a small farming community. Growing up I always knew that I wanted to work with children, so after High School I went to get my Degree in Special Education. Ever since college I have been working in day cares and public schools. The last four years I worked in a grade school with 6th,7th and 8th grade special education children. We decided to move out to Montana at the end of the summer when my fiance got a job in Big Sky. I am so thankful for Morningstar for giving me this opportunity to be working in such a great community.

mrebholz@morningstarlearningcenter.com

Brenda Leanos

Brenda Leanos

Infant Teacher's Aide

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 a two-year old son.   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.

Kira Oliver

Toddler Teacher's Aide

Kira was born and raised in Missoula, MT.  She worked with 1st graders for 2 years.  While going to school in Bozeman, MT, studying Exercise Science and Business, she was given the opportunity to travel the Western United States playing college women’s rugby.  She then took on a career as a dental assistant working with children and adults for 2 years.  Her little girl Kali came December 2017 and she settled down in Big Sky with her fiance.  She is excited to work with all the children at MLC!

Board of Directors

Laura Kusto

Laura Kusto

President

Originally from the small town of Pisek, ND, I moved to Big Sky in 2013. My daughter was born in 2014 and I joined the Morningstar board in 2015 when she became enrolled. As someone who grew up in a very small town, I appreciate the close-knit community of parents we have in Big Sky. Professionally, I studied Industrial Engineering at North Dakota State University and then spent the better part of a decade in New York, NY working for consulting and financial companies. I currently work out of my home office as the Senior Director and Hotel Area Lead for BCD Travel. As the daughter of an elementary school teacher and principal I have a deep appreciation for the work of our educators. I seek to bring that passion and perspective to support MLC’s directors and teachers in what I know is one of the most important roles in a child’s life.

Jennifer Hendrickson

Jennifer Hendrickson

Vice-President

Jennifer has worked in hospitality for over 15 years and is the current Director of Food and Beverage at the Yellowstone Club.  She and her family moved to Big Sky in 2015.  She has served on the MLC Board for one year, and brings with her several years of leadership management as well as financial management for large income businesses.

Elex McAlear

Elex McAlear

Treasurer

I grew up in Twin Bridges, MT and moved to Bozeman to attend Montana State University. I graduated with a business management degree and started my working as manager for National Car Rental. Four years later, I decided to change careers and manager the deli at Wheat Montana in Three Forks, MT. I then started with First Security Bank. In May 2015, I was promoted as Real Estate Lender and moved to Big Sky.  I hope that my education, managerial and banking experience will help me on the Morningstar board.

Michelle Donaldson

Michelle Donaldson

Board Member

My husband and I are natives of Michigan and owned a second home in Big Sky for several years before moving here permanently in 2015. I am active in the community, serving on the Big Sky Community Food Bank board and the Big Sky Chapel board. I am also involved in the Big Sky Christian Fellowship. My passions are yoga, golf, hiking, fly fishing, skiing, adventure travel, and spending time with my granddaughter who lives in Big Sky and attends Morningstar.  I believe that early learning is vital to a young child’s development and it is this belief that drew me to serve on the MLC board.

Maren Dunn-Chandler

Maren Dunn-Chandler

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.

Stephanie Kissell

Stephanie Kissell

Board Member

I grew up in Washington State and moved to Big Sky in December 2005. I taught elementary grades at Ophir School for eight years before taking time off to raise my children.  I became involved in Morningstar Learning Center when my daughter turned two years old first as a parent, and eventually as its director.  After my son was born, I desired to serve MLC in a different capacity.  Becoming a member of the board seemed a logical way to merge my passion for education with service.  It is my hope that my 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.

Danielle McClain

Danielle McClain

Board Member

Originally from Pennsylvania, I have lived in Montana for over twenty years and in Big Sky for the last fifteen of those years. In that time, my husband and I have grown a small business to a bigger one and now, at ages 13 and 14, our two children have grown in the same way. My background is in education. I have a BA in English and a BS in Elementary Education. I am also a certified K-8 Library Media Specialist. As an educator, I spent eight years working as a middle school teacher and high school librarian in the Big Sky School District. Between family and work I also love to mountain bike, ski and explore this in this beautiful place we call home. My experiences as mother, educator and small business owner have brought me to the board of Morningstar. The cultivation of excellent childcare and education is essential to the health and sustainability of our growing community.