Discovery Staff

Discovery offers families a supportive, knowledgeable staff that is educated, experienced, and committed to developing relationships with the children and families in their care. Classroom teachers have backgrounds and degrees in Early Childhood Education, Child Development, and other related fields. They offer a developmentally appropriate and child-centered program focused on helping children gain social and emotional competence, in a hands-on, play-based setting. Low adult / child ratios ensure that everyone receives special attention and quality services. Individualized programming based on observation and documentation is provided for all children in the program. Discovery’s staff includes:

Collette Box
Director

Education / Experience – Has been part of Discovery since its beginnings in 1992, working with the two and three year olds and developing what is now known as the Playgroup. She added the responsibilities of Assistant Director shortly thereafter, and became the Director in 1995. She has a BS degree in Early Childhood Education and is halfway through a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Professional – Advocates for children and families at the local and state level through professional organizations and advisory boards, striving to raise awareness about the importance of environments and relationships for children birth to five.

Interests – Gardening and outdoor environments and pursuits.

Fun Fact – Has gone back to school 5 times – the ultimate life-long learner!

Barbara Otey
Director's Assistant / Classroom Asst.

Education / Experience – Barbara was recruited to join Discovery after taking a class with Collette at FVCC! She started in September 2017 in a dual-position that includes work as Director’s Assistant and afternoon teacher, but she spends plenty of time in all the classrooms. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree from Alma College (Alma, MI) in Physiology & Health Sciences, and 20 ECE credits from FVCC/UM Western.  She has lived in the valley for six years, working first in a PT clinic and then in a variety of child care settings.

Interests – kayaking, backpacking, hiking, making art, and reading.

Fun Fact – Barbara is writing an early childhood curriculum called “The Guidance Triad,” which she has presented to DDC staff as well as educators from all over the state at the mtaeyc conference.

Beth Simon
Cook & Nutritional Planner

Education / Experience – Beth joined Discovery staff in June 2017. She has been in Food Service most of her working life, except for when raising twins girls and son. She owned & operated Simply Sweet Baking Co. in Kalispell for 4 years before moving to Beaverton Oregon to help manage the Pastry Department of a local upscale grocery store. She’s been back in Montana since 2015. Her husband (pictured with her) is also a chef!

Interests – gardening, sewing and textile arts, raising chickens, and spending time with her grandchildren

Fun Fact – Grand Prize winter of Sunset Magazine Pie Contest “Apple Cranberry Currant Pie” from San Francisco Baking Institute.

Meredith Mikkola
Playgroup (Squirrel) Classroom

Education / Experience – Joined Discovery staff in July 2015. She has worked and cared for children in a variety of capacities throughout high school and college, including volunteering during college years with an after-school program and with Girls, Inc. She also worked in a Kindergarten classroom as a 1:2 instructional assistant in Massachusetts after graduation from college. She graduated from Salem State University with BS degree in Early Childhood Education and Psychology and is P-3 certified in Montana.

Interests – photography, mountain biking, hiking and exploring Montana, yoga.

Fun Fact – Was born in Tennessee!

Shay Reynolds
Playgroup (Squirrel) Classroom

Education / Experience – Shay joined the Discovery staff in February 2018 as part of a required college Practicum experience and worked in all three classrooms before landing in the Playgroup (Squirrel) classroom. She holds an Associate’s degree from FVCC in Early Childhood Education, and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed foster parent for the state of Montana!

Interests – Spending time with nieces and nephews, hiking, and painting.

Fun fact – Is an identical twin!

Megan Olsen
Playgroup (Squirrel) Classroom

Education / Experience – Megan comes to DDC from Natural Beginnings Childcare, which closed in May 2022. She has her Associate’s degree from FVCC in Early Childhood Education, and even took classes with Collette in 2016-17. Prior to Natural Beginnings, she worked at the FVCC Early Childhood Center, assisting in all of the classrooms.

Interests – Megan likes hiking, camping, baking (she almost went to pastry school), and spending time with her family.

Fun Fact – Megan is restoring a 1951 Chevy truck!

Torree Heaton
Pre-K (Eagle) Classroom

Education / Experience – First joined Discovery staff in 2010 while completing AS degree at FVCC. Returned to the organization in April of 2018. During the intermittent years, she completed a BS degree from UM Western, had a child, and worked as Family Support Specialist at the Child Development Center (CDC).

Interests – Gardening, reading, and family.

Fun Fact

Devin Saucy
Pre-K (Eagle) Classroom

Education / Experience – Devin joined Discovery staff in February 2021 and oriented quickly to the pre-K classroom routine to become the pre-K teaching assistant. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology & Human Services from Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, although she is originally from Portland, OR. Her experience with children includes working at a summer camp for elementary schoolers, and she is eager to expand her knowledge of early childhood development and education. Devin lives in Lakeside with her boyfriend Hunter.

Interests – volleyball, 

Fun Fact – Devin was a varsity athlete throughout high school & college in women’s volleyball!

Jasmine Gardner
Classroom Assistant

Education / Experience – Jasmine is our newest addition to the DDC staff! She graduated from Bigfork High School in 2021, and then Jackson Hole Bible College in 2022. She has experience working with children at Yellow Bridge Road Learning Center in Bigfork, as well as programs through her church. She has a huge heart for children and is passionate about providing love and care during the early childhood years.

Interests – horses, reading, writing, singing,

Fun Fact – Jasmine loves to ride horses and can ride both English and Western style!

Tamara Allery
Preschool (Mountain Lion) Classroom

Education / Experience – Joined Discovery staff in December 2010 as a part-time substitute and aide while maintaining employment at Glacier National Park in the summer months. Became permanent staff in September 2012. She has AS degree in Early Childhood Education from FVCC, and over the years, has intermittently completed on-line coursework through University of Montana Western in pursuit of BS degree in ECE. She has been working in the field since 2007.

Interests – Downhill skiing and snowshoeing, biking, hiking, kayaking, and tennis.

Fun fact – Born in Massachusetts to two Army parents, who raised Tamara & her siblings all around the world, including Saudi Arabia during the evacuation of Desert Storm in 1990.

Linda Crayne
Preschool (Mountain Lion) Classroom

Education / Experience – Linda joined the DDC staff in September. She has a BS degree in Early Childhood Ed./Special Ed. and her Masters in Mental Health in Family Dynamics/Behavioral Health. She comes with over 40 years of experience in this field, working as supervisor, administrator, and teacher in a number of preschool and child care settings from children ages 2-12 years. She most recently worked at Head Start as an Instructional Coach and as an adjust professor for Early Childhood courses. She grew up in the Flathead valley and has lived here most of her life, raising 3 children in Whitefish.

Interests – gardening, butterflies, animals (2 cats: Oliver & Simon, 1 dog: Merlin), the outdoors, and swimming.

Fun Fact – Linda worked at SeaWorld in the education dept. and lived on a sailboat during that time.

Cloe Hodges
Afternoon Assistant

Education / Experience – Cloe is the newest addition to the DDC crew, working as an afternoon assistant with the mixed age group. She has experience working in child care at Smith Memorial.

Interests – Cloe loves painting and experimenting with unusual materials to make art (such as watercolor painting with coffee!)

Fun Fact

Brianna (Bri) Levanen
Kitchen Assistant/Non-provider staff

Education / Experience – Bri graduated from Glacier HS and has taken Continuing Education classes at FVCC, including Sign Language with Preschoolers, which she shares with the staff & children at DDC. Brianna is the oldest in her family and is very comfortable being around young children as she regularly assists in caring for her younger siblings. Her early childhood experience includes an internship at Smith Memorial Daycare and employment at Trinity Lutheran Child Care.

Interests– Briana loves baking delicious desserts to share. In her spare time she enjoys yoga and taking painting classes. She is a talented painter! She likes to travel to see her extended family.

Fun Fact – Bri is the eldest of 8 sibings!

Former DDC Staff

Retired Staff – DDC would not be the program that it is today without the amazing staff who dedicated their lives to the care and education of young minds. We had five teachers retire in 2020-21, and we need to acknowledge their contributions. Pictured with Collette Box (3rd from left), the retired staff are:

Debbie Moon, Teresa Destefano, Becky Madison, Sheryl Donahue, and Pat Trageser. Together they have decades of experience working with young children, and their passion for helping children and families helped DDC evolve into the high quality program you know today.

Former DDC Staff

Where are they now? – You may be wondering “what’s next?” for our amazing staff who are no longer at DDC. We miss them all and wish them the best of luck with their future studies, careers, or next stage in their lives.

Raevin Koster, who has been the Assistant Teacher in the Preschool/Mtn. Lion room, is now in Missoula, attending the University of Montana to further her studies in early childhood education!

Pam LeBlanc, who was the Assistant Teacher in the Playgroup/Squirrel classroom, moved back south to be closer to her kids and grandkids.

Laura Symmes,who has been here for the summer months since 2020, has returned to Dillon, MT to finish her undergraduate degree at UM-Western in Secondary Education.