Our Child Care Staff in Columbia, MO

Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center has been awarded Missouri Accreditation (www.moaccreditation.org). To receive Accreditation, a child care center must exceed the minimum state requirements.  All classroom staff at MLJCLC have taken at least one college-level class in child development.  At a minimum, lead teachers at MLJCLC have obtained their Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate, and most have a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood education or a related field.

At MLJCLC, professional development is a priority.  All classroom staff attend at least 18 hours of training programs and seminars each year.  Every staff member has passed a criminal background check by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a Child Abuse/Neglect Screening by the Missouri Division of Family Services. Building strong, positive relationships between the staff, children, and families is one of the most important things we do at MLJCLC. 

Hello!  My name is Gay Litteken and I am the Executive Director of the Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center.  I have been with MLJCLC since February of 2016.  I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education and Psychology from the University of Central Methodist.  I have resided in Columbia for 28 years and love our community.  I have been married to my husband Tim for over twenty years and we have three boys.  In my spare time I like to spend time outdoors, visiting family and listening to music.  I am a fortunate to be able to work with these amazing children and staff daily.  Knowing that we are helping others, providing tuition assistance so that families can go to work knowing their children are in a wonderful environment is so rewarding.    

Gay Litteken
Executive Director

My name is Megan Geiger. I started my Early Childhood career at Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center. I was a teacher in the preschool classroom here. I took a position at Youth Empowerment Zone as the Director. I am very excited to be back at MLJ as the Program Director. I am currently working towards my bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education at CMU. I have lived in Columbia my whole life. I love working with the children and all the staff here. 

Megan Geiger
Program Director
Employee Spotlight
Jillian Thronhill

Introducing Ms. Jill. Some of you may recognize her.

She is a teacher in the Butterflies Classroom!

We had some questions for Ms. Jillian so we could get to know her better!

Tell me about you:

My name is Jillian Thornhill. I am 20 years old.

I love to go camping with my boyfriend’s family and ride ATV’s in the woods.

How long have you worked at MLJ?

I have been with MLJ for 4 months now.

What is your favorite thing about MLJ?

My favorite thing about MLJ is all my kids that I get to watch grow up and become amazing humans.

I also really love all the staff and they are like family.


What are three things about you most people don't know? 

  1. I have a little brother who is 20 years younger than me

  2.  I have shown cattle and pigs from the time I was 8 years old until I was 18 in 4-H

  3. My dream is to open up my own daycare


What have you learned while working here? 

I have learned so much at MLJ. I have learned how to love and care for children in the best way possible.

I have learned that there are so many people that are in your corner even if you don’t think so.