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About Great Beginnings Montessori School: 

Our 2016 Annual Report

Dear GBMS community,

It is with great pride that we present Great Beginnings Montessori’s 2016 Annual Narrative, summarizing our 31st successful year of nature-based Montessori, the vision embodied in our strategic plan, and our enthusiasm with our Board of Director’s leadership.

As one of the most-sought after Montessori schools in Western Montana, GBMS and our stakeholders are investors in our community, through education and our children. We remain committed to advancing broader regional knowledge and achievements through our programs, initiatives, trainings, and events. At many levels, we work with partners, like you, to expand tools, knowledge, and available resources.

Some of GBMS’ 2016 highlights include:

We look forward to many more years of partnering with you to affect lasting change and create places we’re proud of in Western Montana.

Grateful for your individual and organizational support,

Gennifre Hartman, Executive Director

Business Overview:

  • Great Beginnings Montessori School, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, has a 31-year history of successfully serving children and families within the Gallatin Valley. Founded in 1986 by a group of parents, the school moved to its current location in 2001. The school served 72 families during the 2015/16 academic school year, 93 families with its 2016 Summer Camps, and has 72 families currently enrolled for 2016/17.
  • As our operating budget balances on its own, fundraising is designated mainly to support specific projects and our scholarship program.
  • Great Beginnings Montessori School has four main funding streams: tuition, fundraising, gifts and grants. The school depends on tuition for the majority of its income. Currently, academic year tuition makes up about 82% of our revenue. Summer tuition makes up another 12%. Grant income makes up approximately 6%.
  • Of our 13 staff members: ten have university degrees; six are AMS certified Montessori teachers; four are licensed teachers; and all have had additional Montessori and continuing education training.
  • 2016 facility improvements: Moved fences and put up a new play structure for larger children, and expanded the summer programming to include 1st – 3rd graders. The creation of the Danielle Wilson Memorial Music Garden, with two outdoor xylophones in our natural playground.

Education and Events: 

  • GBMS works to generate awareness, interest, and commitment to nature-based Montessori education through events, communications, an online presence, and enthusiasm. By offering parenting workshops, building tours, and writing articles for local publication - we seek to prepare the next generation of children in our community.
  • Children visited 18+ mountains and rivers, including: Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park; Missouri Headwaters State Park; Battle Ridge Forest Service cabin for Earth Day; Hyalite Reservoir; the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers, and more.
  • Family and Social Events included: Beer-and-Bunco; End-of-Summer Ice Cream Social; Map Brewing Summer Expansion Fundraiser; Chocolate Moose; and the Holiday Bazaar.
  • Our partnership with MSU Service Saturday brought a large group of MSU volunteers to the school several times to beautify our grounds. Service Saturday encourages MSU students to seek out engagement and service opportunities throughout their college career.

Web and Social Media:

  • We love to share stories about how our school is leading the way with innovative Montessori programming. Schools from New England to California have called to ask about our yurt classroom, and our partnership with the MSU School of Architecture has enabled our stakeholders to be involved in learning about the opportunities for high performing buildings. Did you know that GBMS regularly receives compliments about our up-to-date website? Additionally, our school maintains social media accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn; and has a private social sharing network for current families through Transparent Classroom. In 2017, we plan to join Instagram, and create a stronger presence with our Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, including teachers.
  • Top Facebook Post of 2016: “Field trip at the Law and Justice Center for the Yurt Camp. Campers are being sworn in by Judge Holly Brown.”
  • 707 Facebook Page likes
  • 630 e-newsletter subscribers
  • 28 e-newsletters sent

Green & Healthy School Initiatives:

  • Great Beginnings Montessori School promotes a healthy, nature-based school and community by working with educators, administrators, students, and community members. Our embedded sustainability values – environmental impact, human health and social equity, and economic vitality – are integrated into every aspect of Great Beginnings, including: culture; facilities; teaching and learning; and operational practices.
  • Bike/ Walk initiatives included: staff bike-to-work incentives; multiple guest speakers from Montana Safe Routes to Schools; Bike Day; and summer weekly bike excursions, with over 50+ miles ridden on local trails.
  • Parent drivers educated through signage about health impacts of vehicle idling.
  • Great Beginnings participated in Montana’s SMART Schools challenge, and plans to apply for additional grants with the new campus targeted toward Montana schools and green building practices that create healthy and sustainable communities in which to live, work, and play.

Montessori Training and Continuing Education:

School Expansion Update:

  • We are currently seeking land to purchase for the second campus. This will expand our programming to include two additional classrooms for September 2017: one additional preschool classroom, and one lower elementary classroom for 1st – 3rd grades. We are confident this expansion will attract new families to the school and keep them at the school longer.
  • Additionally, Great Beginnings is growing to fill a niche within our community. Great Beginnings recently become the first recognized Eco-School in Bozeman, recognized through the National Wildlife Federation. The Eco-School program strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum, and enhance science and academic achievement.
  • Size of second campus: 1.) The optimal school size is one that supports the kind of education the community wants at a cost it can afford, and 2.) The relationship between teachers and students is a primary concern. The school's structure, no matter what its size, must support that relationship.
  • Student enrollment: With a Waiting List and an expected population growth in the Gallatin Valley, GBMS anticipates strong enrollment for the expanded campus over the next five years. Population figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2016 again ranked the Bozeman area among the fastest-growing counties in the nation, estimating Gallatin County’s July 2015 population at 100,739 people — a 3,500-resident increase over a year prior.

Our Organization:

Board of Directors

Great Beginnings Montessori School is governed by a Board of Directors dedicated to the mission of the school. Of our 7 Board members, 6 are current parents of Great Beginnings Montessori School, and one is a community member with 10 years'+ experience in finance and business. All of our Board members serve at least one, 3-year term and serve on, at least, two volunteer committees/ task forces. Board members are voted in by our families (each family represents one membership vote) and the Board meets 9 times per year. 100% of our Board members have contributed to the school financially.

Stephanie Dennee – President

Eric Scranton - Vice President

Erik Henyon – Treasurer

Staci Abel - Secretary

Travis Svensrud

Jerome Patton

Barbara Roggenbeck


The administrative team at GBMS is dedicated to ensuring efficient operations, promoting excellence in education, and supporting faculty and families.

Gennifre Hartman – Executive Director and Head of School

Jennifer Denhart – Assistant Head of school

Mikel Daenan – Admissions Director

Brandi Ellerton – Business Manager

Faculty and Staff

Lead Teachers are certified through the American Montessori Society (AMS) GBMS is honored to have the following staff in 2016-2017:


Deb Zander – Head Teacher

Hannah Beckner –Assistant


Mary-Ellen Townsend-Mehler – Co-Lead Teacher, Friendship Room

Megan Baker-Hunger - Co-Lead Teacher, Friendship Room

Jamey McCormick – Lead Teacher, Kindergarten

Vicky Williams – Co-Lead Teacher, Sunshine Room

Abbee Skaggs - Assistant Teacher, Sunshine Room

Marie Jones – Assistant Teacher, Friendship Room


Sam Brooks-Smith – Aftercare Director

Sarisa Rodriguez - Spanish

Allison McGree – Art

Elizabeth Rose – Folk Music Teacher


Thank you for helping us make our dreams come true!

Great Beginnings is a fully-registered 501 (c)3.

Tax ID: 81-0439260



Our Unique Benefits

•  We offer monthly classroom themes in art, classical music, zoology, and geography - incorporating hands-on learning materials, activities, and classroom visitors.

•  We welcome and encourage parent involvement. Parents can take part in the school through board membership, committee work, classroom assistance, and sharing interests and talents.

•  We use our one-of-a-kind outdoor classroom for lessons in zoology, botany, geology, and geography. 

•  We direct our resources to retain the best teachers and continually enrich our classroom materials while keeping a low student-to-teacher ratio.

•We develop a sense of community through family events held year-round as well as parent-only social gatherings after hours.

•  We offer need based scholarships in a first-come, first-served basis. As a Montana licensed preschool, eligible families may utilize the state's Best Beginnings scholarship program.