Head of School/Executive Director

Gennifre Hartman: Gennifre has 20+ years educational non-profit experience in leadership roles and has  17+ years’ experience working as Head of School for various schools, including one she founded. She holds a Master’s degree in English Education from the University of Montana. In addition to Great Beginnings, she currently teaches at Montana State University, and works as an educational consultant to create experiential education curriculum and opportunities in outdoor and international environments.  


Director of Admission and Students

Mikel Daenan: For many of the new parents, she is often the first person you will meet at the school.  Mikel is responsible for all issues relating to the well-being of the students during their attendance at the school. With more than a decade experience at GBMS, including serving as a GBMS Board member, a fundraising leader, a classroom aide and a volunteer parent, Mikel knows our school well.  She brings 13+ years of experience from her work in the hospitality industry with cruise lines. Originally from the Seattle area, Daenen is the mother of three children, all of whom attended Great Beginnings. 


Assistant Head of School and Director of Nature, Community Involvement and Service

Jamey McCormick: 2018 marks a decade that Jamey has been involved at Great Beginnings. Jamey loves getting students outside for "practical life," and is responsible for developing and managing collaborative community engagement, volunteer, and immersion experiences for students.  A certified K-8 teacher, Jamey was a primary school teacher in the Bozeman public schools before joining Great Beginnings as a volunteer classroom aide when her daughters attended the school.  Jamey completed an intensive Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes training in Michigan to support her focus on students’ early reading success. Jamey also has previous Montessori training and early childhood experience in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Jamey can often be found running with her dogs and skate skiing in the beautiful Bridger Mountains.


Business Manager and Kindergarten Teacher

Brandi Ellerton: Brandi is our Business Manager, and simultaneously helps to teach our children how to read. She is a certified K-8 teacher with a degree in elementary education from MSU-Bozeman, and has worked in Montessori schools in Arizona and Montana. She has previously served as the Development Director for the Montana Ballet Company and spent many years traveling around the United States setting up and managing site offices for multi-million dollar heavy utility construction projects. Brandi has two wonderful children and enjoys camping and skiing with her family. 


Development Director

Jennifer Bartholomew: Jennifer loves Great Beginnings, non-profit organizations, and raising funds. She additionally loves creating marketing materials, identifying and securing sponsors, and training other staff to involve in fundraising efforts.  An alumni parent, all three of her children went to Great Beginnings. Professionally, her work background in the hospitality included coordinating such logistics as budgets, speakers, entertainment, and other related issues. Working in New York City,  she often had the opportunity to work with celebrities and high end guests, to help plan and accommodate their personal needs. In addition to her work with Great Beginnings, Jennifer works as a Level 5 leader with Rodan and Fields skin care, running a team of over 100 consultants around the US and in Australia. 


Toddler Program Director: Bumblebee classroom

Deb Zander: Deb joined Great Beginnings as our Aftercare Director in 2014. After homeschooling and raising her five children, Deb decided that Montessori was a perfect fit for her love of individualized education and children. A graduate of Loyola University in Chicago, Deb’s first career was as a certified dental assistant. Deb earned her Early Childhood Montessori Certification with the Age of Montessori, supervised by our former Head of School, Victoria Brailsford. She has an additional certification as a Toddler Specialist.  When she’s not at Great Beginnings, Deb spends her time with her three grandchildren, and enjoys hiking, bike riding and scrapbooking. 


Co-Lead Teacher: Shooting Star classroom

Catie Hannigan: Catie has been in the Montessori classroom for 11 years, and is overjoyed that she stumbled upon this beautiful approach to education. She earned her Montessori certification in 2010 from the Caspari Institute, and additionally has a BA in Early Childhood Education from The University of Toledo. Catie actually started out her Montessori career in Montana in 2008 at GBMS in the Friendship Room! Since then, Catie has taught at multiple Montessori schools in the Gallatin Valley. Catie especially enjoys circle time, and you can find her singing songs or letting the children experiment on an electric keyboard. When Catie is not in the classroom, she enjoys hiking and playing at the local parks with her two children and husband. Her two-year-old son, Bodie, loves being a big brother to his little sister, Sara!

Assistant Teacher: Buttercup classroom

Gina Pasini: Gina has a Bachelor's in Environmental Interpretation with a minor in Natural History, and an Associates in Early Childhood Education. She has spent her career working with a combination of wildlife biology and work with children. Additionally, she brings a background with a variety of work history; from working as a youth counselor, as a preschool teacher, as a ski instructor, as a wildlife biologist, and as a natural history guide. Teaching children has provided her with "the most laughter, fulfillment, rich memories, and a sense of positive contribution to the community." Gina's teaching style is based on a thoughtful, intuitive, playful personality and she believes that a child’s education can strengthen the entire family. Gina has found her niche and Great Beginnings suits her traits. 

Assistant Teacher: Shooting Star classroom

Marie Jones


Art Teacher (Micro-school) & Assistant Teacher (toddler)

Elena Capousis: Elena was born in Annapolis, MD. She has her BFA in Art Education from Virginia
Commonwealth University and a minor in ceramics. She has over 10 years of experience
working with children, including working at Garden City Montessori School in Missoula. Elena has worked as a woodfire instructor at the Clay Studio of Missoula, teaching classes and workshops. She has also maintained a long-term Artist in Residence in Ceramics with the Cub Creek Foundation, where she focused in digging native clay and native clay research. Elena will be working with our students from the toddlers through the Micro-school and our school is excited to have the opportunity to combine her passions as both
a teacher and an artist. In her free time she enjoys making pottery in her studio, cooking,
gardening, and getting outside for hikes. 

Co-Lead Teacher: Shooting Star classroom

Sandra Jacobs: Sandra holds a degree in Human Development & Family Studies, as well as a Montessori Early Childhood certification. Her teaching experience, ranges from Teach for America, coaching figure skating, and her current work as a teacher & student of Kundalini Yoga. Sandra home-schooled her three children, ages seventeen, eleven, and seven (both at home and in partnership with private schools).  Sandra brings energy and creativity to share with our Montessori community, and she enjoys working with the supportive and innovative Great Beginnings community. Two of her sons are at the Micro-school and she is excited for this opportunity to "support one another in this important, and life changing work."

Lead Teacher: Buttercup classroom

Abbee Skaggs: Abbee has a degree in health and human development with a focus in early childhood education from MSU, and is a fully certified 3-6 Montessori teacher. Abbee has also taught art classes and enjoys bringing her unique creativity and ingenuity into her classroom. Abbee grew up in Bozeman, and when not at work, she enjoys Zumba and time outside with her dog.


Lead Teacher: Lupine classroom

Michael O'Reilly: Michael holds an international Montessori teacher's certificate from the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies, having spent three summers in Phoenix to complete. In addition to his classroom expertise, Michael enjoys teaching cursive, participating in music and art, and passing on his love for the circus arts through gross motor activities. In his free time, Michael enjoys exploring our great state with his wonderful six-year-old son.


Before-school Director & Assistant Teacher: Buttercup classroom

Hannah Beckner: Hannah is a graduate from West Virginia University with a BA in Child Development and Family Studies. Hannah additionally holds a 3-6 Montessori certificate from the NAMC. Hannah's college internship was specialized with infants and toddlers, and she has additional professional experience teaching preschool age children at a child development center. In her free time, Hannah enjoys being outside, floating on the river, and skiing and hiking. 


After-school Director & Assistant Teacher: Lupine classroom

McKenzie Selden: A graduate from Western Washington University with a BA in Environmental Policy and Communication Studies. She became interested in education while serving as an environmental educator with AmeriCorps with Washington Service Corps. She taught over 2,000 elementary students lessons focusing on wildfire ecology, in addition to the water cycle. Passionate about outdoor education, McKenzie volunteers as a mentor with BYEP, serving local youth. In her free time, McKenzie enjoys skiing, camping, hiking and fly-fishing. 


Upper Camp Director: Field Camp & Counselor-in-Training Camp

Nolan is very excited to join the Great Beginnings team this summer as the Upper Camp director. A recent graduate of MSU Honors College, with a Bachelor's Degree and a Business certificate, Nolan brings four summer's worth of camp experience, including the BSU Summer Academy and Paradise Point.  During his work with camps, he has developed a Counselor-in-Training program, and worked with groups of up to 60 or more campers aged 5-17. He has also worked as an Archery Specialist, overseeing safety while monitoring archery and ax throwing activities.  Nolan also coordinated counselors for various camp activities, including providing transportation off-site. He is creative at leading camp activities and developing new activities for campers.  He is ready to bring all his experience to the table to make this a great summer for the campers. In his free time, he often plans travel adventures, reads, hangs out with his cat, or finds an excuse to get outdoors for a few hours.

Nolan Macnamara

Lower Camp Director: Huckleberry Camps

Sierra Fein recently graduated from Western Governors University with a Master’s in Elementary Education and is thrilled to join the Great Beginnings team. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Theatre from Montana State University and has a passion for filmmaking. She as previously served as the team director and coach for the Bozeman Stingrays Synchronized swimming team and dedicated the past 7 years working with high school foreign exchange students. Sierra enjoys all the outdoor activities Montana has to offer including camping, hiking, rafting, snowboarding and even rollerblading. Sierra is the mother of two amazing children and loves working with kids of all ages. 

Sierra Fein

Huckleberry Camp Instructor & Aftercare teacher

Amber LaCross: A student at MSU with a declared major in early-childhood education, Amber has worked with our summer camp and with our school's aftercare program for the past two years. A steady and gentle teacher, Amber excels with her creativity, connection with children, and her great style when reading aloud. 


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We know our teachers are the heart of our school.


At Great Beginnings, we aim to hire and retain a collaborative team of teachers who are kind, nurturing, inquisitive, capable and professional. 

© 2020 by Great Beginnings Montessori School

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