Staff

Rebekah Nelson is the President of the Zoot Adventure Learning Academy. She spent three years bringing the vision and dream of ZALA to fruition, which achieved a joint goal for her and her husband Chris (who is Founder and CEO of Zoot Enterprises). Rebekah is a passionate advocate for healthy work/life balance and creating safe, nurturing child care for the community. This passion guides her as she steers ZALA through its daily operations and long-term planning.

With two decades of experience working in early childhood education, Victoria Brailsford brings enthusiasm and expertise to her role as director. She has a master’s degree in Montessori education from St. Catherine University and an early childhood teaching certificate from the Pan American Montessori Society. Victoria has served as a teacher and director of Montessori programs while preparing teachers as a professional development specialist with the Early Childhood Project at Montana State University and as a Montessori teacher trainer with two accredited teacher training organizations.

She has conducted workshops, presented at national conferences, and published several articles on teaching, parenting and early childhood education. Victoria has served on a variety of non-profits boards with organizations that serve children, teens and families in the Gallatin Valley. She has worked with the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education as on on-site verifier, visiting teacher education programs and early childhood classrooms around the globe.

Victoria is passionate about providing ongoing education for teachers and parents because she considers the gifts of child development to be the key component to unlocking maximum achievement in human potential for the entire lifespan of an individual, both personally and professionally.

Hello, my name is Rhiannon Reardon.  I am the Assistant Director and Lead Teacher in the Toddler Room.  In 2007 I graduated from MSU-Great Falls with an Associates of Applied Science in Health Information Technology.  My experience with children stems from being a stay at home mom with my own children to owning and operating a group home daycare (12-16 kids) for the past 13 years.  My passion is the formative years of young children.  I participate in the Early Childhood Project’s Practioner Registry, where I maintain a level 2 based upon the training credentials I commit to annually.  

One day I hope to live in a tropical location where I can soak up the sun in a hammock strung between two palm trees and enjoy the breeze rolling in off the ocean.

Hi! I’m Marisa Smith and I am the lead teacher in the infant room. I graduated in 2017 with a degree in Community Health and a minor in Human Development. I have worked with children since my sophomore year of high school, but professionally have worked with children a little over 2 years. I have loved every minute of it! When I’m not loving on kiddos I’m known to be giving love to my two dogs. A German Shepard named Daisy and a Bassador named Duke!

Hello! My name is Megan Hohn and I am the Lead Teacher in the Preschool Room. In 2015, I graduated with degrees in Early Childhood/Special Education and Elementary Education. I currently hold an active teaching license in Montana. Over the last seven years working with children professionally, it has been a joy and great learning experience teaching in a variety of school, afterschool, and summer program settings. Since moving to Bozeman, I have spent two wonderful summers as a Summer Camp Instructor at the Museum of the Rockies and a school year as the Lead Teacher in a Toddler Room.  In my spare time I enjoy hiking, camping, reading, and road tripping back to South Dakota to see family and friends. I am so thrilled to start this new adventure here at ZALA with all of your amazing little ones!

Hello! My name is Jolynne Simard, and I am the Assistant Teacher in the Infant Room. I graduated from the University of Montana Western with an Associates degree in Early Childhood Development. My passion for investing in the lives of children by giving them the best care possible began with my first babysitting job when I was twelve years old! Since then, I have worked at two daycares and have volunteered in a wide variety of childcare opportunities from helping to lead Vacation Bible Schools to volunteering in after-school tutoring. I am so excited to be a part of the Zoot community as I continually strive to improve and learn. When I have some extra time on my hands, you can find me outdoors with my Siberian Husky exploring my beautiful home-state of Montana!

Hi! My name is Katie Tosic. I am so excited to be a part of the ZALA Staff! I am so blessed with my position here as I get to be the Lead Teacher in the Bridge room.

I am ecstatic to be back living in Bozeman, in the same town as my close friends and my family. I am a lover of laughter, traveling, and spending quality time with my husband and those I love most. I was born and raised in Bozeman, and completed my college degree with honors at the University of Montana Western in Elementary Education in 2016. After graduation, I moved to Missoula to teach at a Montessori school. I was the lead toddler teacher as well as lead the summer program for two summers in a row and last spring I obtained my Montessori certification. It is truly my passion to work with young children, help them grow and instill inspiration. I truly believe it is my strength to encourage children from all backgrounds and abilities.

Hi! I’m Kristen Knight and I am the Hospitality Coordinator for ZALA. The health, safety, and enjoyment of each child and teacher is my priority. Whether it’s organizing and cleaning, or preparing crafts or outdoor activities, I am behind the scenes making sure the days at ZALA run smoothly. I am originally from North Dakota/Minnesota and before coming to Montana I worked at Head Start and directed the children’s ministry at Hope Church. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Child Development and Family Science and a minor in Wellness. I am very passionate about yoga and mindfulness and I am excited to practice with the ZALA kids. I received my children’s yoga certification in October 2019. When I’m not here hanging with your kids, I enjoy being outdoors and playing with my two bunnies, Flynn and Fawn.

Hello, my name is Laura Tuininga. I am excited to be working in all the classrooms and getting to know all the kids! My experience with children started after eighth grade when I worked for a summer day camp. From there, I have babysat many children and have worked as a counselor at my church’s summer Bible camp for almost 6 years in a row. I am very eager to learn and grow with your kids and the whole ZALA family!

Hi! I'm Tressa Holt and I am one of the assistant teachers at ZALA. I have been working with children for almost thirty years as a nanny, preschool teacher, and I taught overseas for seven years. I am new to Bozeman and excited to be here at ZALA. I love to paint, camp, and visit with friends!

Hello! My name is Cassie Sybesma. I am a Lead Float Teacher at ZALA, so I have the privilege of working with every age group. I graduated from Montana State University in 2018 with a degree in Elementary Education. I have cared for children since I was 13 and my professional experience includes three years working in early childhood settings as well as one year teaching kindergarten. When I am not exploring with the little ones, I love to draw, read, swim, and ride my bike. 

My name is Kalindra Frankhuisen, I am a Bozeman native. I have been living in the Lake Tahoe area for the past few years and I’m happy to be back home where I can continue to live an active lifestyle. I love being outdoors; hiking, running, camping and skiing with my fiancé and golden retriever named Finnley. I love adventuring with them as often I can.
I found a calling for working with Children from a young age and found my passion in the Early Childhood field. I have worked throughout the field ranging from a camp counselor to a Waldorf preschool teacher. I love working with children which is why I couldn’t be happier to have found Z.A.L.A. I look forward to learning from and working along side such an inspiring and incredible group of teachers, families and children.

My name is Petra Anderson.

I was born and raised in Germany and came to the US in 2012 with my Montana-born husband.

I graduated from Carl-Severing-College in Bielefeld, Germany in 2007 as a state-accredited teacher with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Social Pedagogy. I have been working with children professionally for over 16 years and have made lots of experiences along the way that helped me shape my character as an educator. 

In my free time I love to read, write, paint, and cuddle with my cats. 

I am very excited to join the ZALA team and am looking forward to many shared memories and adventures.

My name is Faith Nelson and I will be working as a ZALA camp counselor for this summer. I recently graduated from Bozeman High School, and will be attending MSU this fall. I have been babysitting and caring for children for eight years and in that time have acquired a well-rounded set of skills. When I am not babysitting for families, including my own, I can be found reading or being out in the beautiful Montanan outdoors with my family and our three dogs, Rebel, Izzy and Duke.

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