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
Emily Smith

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

She is a teacher in the Butterflies Classroom!

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

Tell me about you:

My name is Emily Smith, I’ve always had a passion working with children, especially being a good diverse representation.

Growing up a military kid it was hard not seeing teachers that looked like me or teacher that didn’t include anything about my culture, or other cultures, in lesson plans. It inspired me to be exactly that representation.


How long have you worked at MLJ?

I’ve been working at MLJ for 6 months now.

What is your favorite thing about MLJ?

My favorite thing about Mary Lee Johnston is the community we build for ourselves within the staff to create an even better resource for the families to feel welcome and heard. We are constantly striving for better.


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

  1.  I am big into hiking and camping anytime in not in the classroom.

  2. I love to train my dog Freya to do interesting and funny tricks, she knows a little Spanish.

  3. I’m a huge coffee buff! 


What have you learned while working here? 

Being at MLJ has given me the opportunity to learn so much in just the 6 months I’ve been here but something I’m constantly working on is adapting. These babies are constantly throwing me new challenges in every sense and I’ve had to get very creative. 

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