For a high-quality education that prepares your child for success both in the classroom and outside of it, choose First Impressions Academy in Fayetteville, NC. We keep class sizes small, and each member of our faculty is trained and has received a degree in childhood education. All of our teachers are passionate about their jobs and about helping students grow and strengthen their academic and behavioral skills. We provide preschool, grade school and middle school classes as well as clubs, activities and summer camp to keep children engaged and excited about learning all year round. We are excited to work with you and your child!
First Impressions Academy was founded by Christy Pettit, when she renovated her home garage into a preschool in October 2008. After teaching for six years in three different states, she wasn’t impressed with the lack of education in preschools. She wanted to give children a quality educational foundation to properly prepare them for their educational careers. At that time, she was the sole employee and taught all of the half-day classes. Eventually, her three-year-old students were ready for kindergarten, and after completing much research on placement, the families asked Christy if she would open a kindergarten. She then began looking for commercial property, and within three months, she had her kindergarten up and running. Since then, First Impressions Academy has opened one grade per year through 8th grade ending with an amazing S.T.E.M middle school.
Meet our passionate, caring team of teachers!
Christy Pettit – Director/Founder
For as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. My career took me to various schools and gave me the opportunity to teach a variety of grades at different academic levels. Although teaching was amazing, the settings and lack of imperative core values were missing. I was not willing to give up on my dream; however, I refused to be a part of something that was broken. I had a vision, and I made it my mission to create a school that encompassed all of the components that make learning and teaching successful.
Kelly Bullard- Administrative Assistant/Permanent Substitute
My name is Kelly Bullard and I am the permanent substitute teacher and admin assistant in the front office. I started working at FIA in 2015, and it has been my second home ever since! I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Auburn University in 2012, and have since then had the opportunity to teach PreK-8th grade children. I enjoy subbing the most because it allows me to build relationships with students of all ages, as well as getting to teach all subjects. Working at FIA has by far been my favorite experience, and the kids are the biggest reason why! I love coming to work every day and spending time with them. When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband, dog, and pig.
Freda Smith- Teacher lead/Attendance Coordinator
I’m very excited about starting my second year as part of the FIA family. I joined FIA last year with 28 years of experience as a North Carolina public school teacher. I am a Fayetteville native and spent my elementary thru middle school years here. I attended high school in Germany, due to my father being in the military. I earned my Elementary Education degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham. My husband of 26 years is a retired Fayetteville firefighter and we have two children. I have always enjoyed listening to music and reading. A new passion that I have recently developed is completing jigsaw puzzles. I thoroughly enjoy watching others (children, and adults as well) learn and grow into the best versions of themselves. I am looking forward to another year at FIA as we all embark upon the teaching and learning that awaits us.
Teresa Clayton- Assistant Director
My name is Teresa Clayton, and I am one of the first faces you will see as you enter First Impressions Academy. I have been with the school since shortly after it opened in 2008, when my oldest daughter attended the preschool program. As the school began to grow, I volunteered to help when I could, as I wanted the school to progress with my daughters and be the only school they attended during their elementary school years. I have worked as the administrative assistant since 2011 and later became the assistant director. I deal with every aspect of the school to help maintain the safe, loving, learning environment that my own children have been blessed to have. I am originally from New York State. My husband’s military career brought us here in 2005, and we plan on being here for quite some time. I have a passion for FIA as a parent first, and it is the reason why I chose to work here. It is truly my wish that every child should have the opportunity to have the amazing start to their education as my girls have had.
Beatriz Torres- Spanish
Hello! (Hola!) My name is Miss. Beatriz Torres (Señora Torres). I am originally from Puerto Rico where, I received my Master degree of Arts in Education with a Minor in Curriculum of Elementary Education. I am married to Hector who is in the military. The U. S., Army moved us to Fayetteville in 2013, and have found a new place to call home. This is my twelfth year teaching Elementary Education and this will be my third-year teaching Spanish in this beautiful school. I am blessed to be working at FIA and have the opportunity to love, guide, and teach every single child that walks through our doors. I love teaching! It is my passion and my calling in life. I am very proud to teach my native language and my culture to your children. I always encourage my students to work hard and never give up, no matter how difficult the tasks are. Spanish is the subject I teach but, my objective is to motivate, inspire, encourage, and lead young people.
David Riska- Music
Sara Dalton- Art
Hello, my name is Sara Dalton and after subbing the second half of last year I am thrilled to start my first full official year at First Impressions Academy as your Visual Art’s teacher. After growing up in the area I attended East Carolina University to work on my under graduate degree and continued to work as a lifeguard and Pre-k assistant during the summer months. I fell in love with teaching children every day, seeing their growth as students but also being able to play a small part in their journey to becoming open minded and caring humans.
A required Elective credit while working towards becoming a Kindergarten teacher Lead me to fall in love with Art as well. I read and wrote creatively for enjoyment daily but my parents had not been exposed to the Arts very often and so the story goes I wasn’t either …I began to notice more children being shamed for being different and “thinking outside of the box” and I made a life altering choice. I had never taken a single Drawing class yet I walked into the Chairmen of the Art department and told him I wanted to change my major with one painting and one collage In hand that I had completed the semester before and said “I draw stick people”. He said you will be Ok….you have the spark children need to see … someone who truly Wants to learn something new so we will teach you something new. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in K-12 Art education and two weeks later I was hired in a year round classical school as their high school Art teacher . I became AP Studio and AP Art history certified by 2004, i Organized graduation and prom for five years as their Senior Class advisor and had two beautiful little girls along the way. After 16 years in education teaching high school in the county my sparkle dulled so to speak and I worried daily about my own children getting the type of education I once dreamed I could give to others. My path thankfully brought me to F.I.A. & one walk and conversation later, I felt like I was at home! I cannot wait to add some creative spark to our already innovative little village.
Kate Meador- P.E.
I have been coaching here at FIA for five years now. I Grew up playing every type of sport I could get my hands on. Basketball became my passion and I knew that I wanted to play it collegiately. In high school I was a 4 year letter winner in Basketball, Track and Field, as well as Tennis. I received All State honors in each one. I was a McDonalds All- American Nominee and TABC All- Star my senior year. My dreams of playing D1 basketball came true and I received a Scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. While there, I helped my team to an A-10 Conference Tournament Championship, birth in the NCAA tournament, and followed that up the next years with 3 post-season births in the WNIT. While playing for the 49ers, I became a team captain my junior and senior years. Once out of school I started working for a basketball personal training facility called Accelerate Basketball. While working there I was able to work with every type of athlete ranging from our NBA clients all the way down to our 5 year olds. In the summer of 2013 I was introduced to Crossfit and quickly became hooked. Shortly after, I received my Crossfit L1 Certificate. There is much to learn in the CrossFit world and at times it can be overwhelming but that’s what continues to drive me as a coach. There’s always something else to know and another way to do something, especially when working with young kids. I love working with our FIA students and helping to instill a love for fitness and sports.
Preschool Team & Kinder Prep Team
Hi, my name is Kim Hall and I am very excited to be teaching Pre-K. I am also lead FIA’s before care and aftercare program. This is my sixth year at First Impressions Academy. Previously I have completed a total of six years as a Family Child Care Provider, where I earned my CDA (Child Development Associates). I was an assistant teacher for seven years at Jackson Elementary School. I love learning and have a passion for teaching children to have that same love and excitement towards learning and school. I love how rewarding it is to watch children grow and help them reach their full potential. Outside of school I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend, my family and friends. I am so excited to be part of the FIA family and am looking forward to a fantastic school year!
Hi, I’m Ryan Travers. I am excited to be joining First Impressions Academy as a Preschool assistant and 2nd/3rd Aftercare teacher. After seeing how fantastic FIA is, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Originally from Georgia, I attended Georgia Southern University and earned my Bachelor’s of Science with a major in Child and Family Development. We have been in Fayetteville for about 2 years. I love spending time with my husband and son and traveling. I can’t wait to start the school year!
My name is Samantha Hastings, better known by our students as Ms. Sam. I started at FIA in 2015 and spent three amazing school years here and absolutely fell in love with this amazing school and everyone in it! Last year I moved back to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio and spent some much-needed time with family and friends, as well as going back to college. During that year, I had the chance to work and observe in many other schools, and it made me realize how special FIA really is. With all that being said, I was thrilled at the chance to come back for a fourth year here at FIA and I’m hoping to make it the best one yet! I live with my boyfriend Steven and our many fur babies. Snow, Rumple, and Carol are our kitties and Ned is our sweetheart Pitbull. When I’m not teaching, I love going to school myself. I have an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and I am currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies. I also love working out, farmer’s markets, shopping, adventuring outdoors, quirky tourist spots, and spending time with my family. I can’t wait for an amazing school year!
My name is Victoria Cary, and I am so excited to start my 1st year with FIA! I have a passion for teaching, and love watching children learn and grow! I have worked with children in many different areas such as Preschool and Elementary School. I am originally from Virginia where I attended Liberty University and graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Family and Child Development. The Army brought my husband and I to North Carolina, and we are thrilled to be in this area! In my spare time, I love to spend time with my husband Zach, and our adventurous cat, Cotton-Eye Joe. I am looking forward to a fantastic school year!
Hello! My name is Imani Payton. I am one of the kindergarten prep teachers here at FIA. A bit about myself: I am a former military brat so I have traveled to many states, but North Carolina is my home for 18 years now. I attended Hoke County High in Raeford and Methodist University is Fayetteville. This is my fifth year teaching, but second year teaching at FIA. I love to write poetry, read books, watch movies, and most importantly spend time with my family. I love working with children and I’m so happy to be here at FIA!
Hi, my name is Jennifer Gantt and I am very excited to be teaching K-Prep. This is my third year at First Impressions Academy! I am originally from Kansas where I attended Fort Hays State University and earned my bachelor’s degree. I have been working in the Early Childhood Field since I was sixteen. I became passionate about teaching when my own children became of school age. I love giving children an excitement about learning and helping them grow. My husband is stationed at Fort Bragg, which is what brought our family to North Carolina. Outside of school I enjoy spending time with my husband and three children. I love being part of the FIA family and am looking forward to a great school year!
My name is Ashley Weeks and I was born and raised in Raeford North Carolina. I have a bachelors degree in Elementary Education from St. Andrews University of Laurinburg, NC. This is my 4th year here at FIA, and my 3rd year teaching kindergarten. I have 13 years of experience working with kids age 1 to 7 years old in early childhood settings as well as school settings. Teaching is my passion and I truly enjoy every minute of it. I am excited to part of you child’s first impression of school.
My name is Kailey Edling and I am so excited to be teaching kindergarten this year. This is my fifth year teaching and my third year at FIA. Prior to FIA I worked at a private school called Primrose in Texas as well as Minnesota. I am originally from Minnesota where I attended Minnesota State University Moorhead earning my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I have been working in the Early Childhood field since I was sixteen and have always had a passion for teaching. I love how rewarding it is to watch children grow and help them reach their true potential. In my free time I enjoy being outdoors, spending time with family and friends, and traveling to new places. I am so thankful to be a part of the FIA family and am looking forward to an amazing school year!
First Grade Team
I knew early on that teaching was what I was meant to do. I earned my bachelors in elementary education from Northern Michigan University in 2005. I have worked in second through fifth grade. It is my own mission to make learning a very natural and fun experience. I believe learning should connect to real world experiences. A teaching job brought me to Fayetteville where I met my husband and joined the army life. We have 2 boys, one of which will begin his school career at FIA this year. I am very excited to be a part of this team!
Hello! My name is Elisa Apolinar and I am a first grade teacher. I have been teaching at FIA for 5 years; would have been 6, but took a little break after having my last baby : ) I have three young children who also attend this amazing school. I am originally from Phoenix, AZ, but have made this place home since the military moved us in 2008. On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my family, taking my kids to the movies, JP’s, and Barnes and Noble. On my alone time I do what every mom enjoys doing, which is shopping at Target without kids, lol. FIA has been a blessing to myself and my family and I am grateful for all the amazing experiences and memories this school has created and continues to create for us. I look forward to another amazing year with the best staff and families!
Second Grade Team
My name is Lauren Runde and I am so excited to be teaching 2nd grade at FIA. I am originally from Missouri where I received my Bachelors in Elementary Education and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Northwest Missouri State University. I taught two years of 3rd grade in Missouri before marrying my husband and moving to Anchorage, Alaska. During our time there, I taught two years of 3rd grade. I have spent the last three years teaching 2nd grade in Tennessee. I love spending time outdoors with my husband, son, and our dog, Cash. I am looking forward to an amazing year at FIA!
My name is Rebecca Wilson. I was born and raised in Georgia. This is my 2nd year teaching in Fayetteville and my sixth year overall. I love the freedom and creativity that teaching at FIA allows. My classroom activities vary from day to day. I like to keep it fun and interesting! I have been married to my husband for a year now and we recently welcomed our first child in June! Clara Mae is our precious baby girl and we can’t remember what life was like without her. When I have time for hobbies, I love to sing and read for pleasure.
Third Grade Team
Fourth Grade Team
Hi! My name is Jamie Dale, and I am so excited to teach fourth grade. This is my first year at FIA, but I am. I stranger to education. I have been a classroom teacher for the past 10 years! I have taught a variety of grades and coached middle school softball and HS cheer-leading! Children have been my passion for as long as I can remember! I started babysitting at the age of 13 and that was all it took for me to realize I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children!! I am married and have three amazing children who keep us very busy. We are a softball, football, and cheer-leading family. We love to be outside doing pretty much anything and we are HUGE Carolina Panthers fans! We love going to games, tailgating and enjoying family time together! I am so excited to add all of you to my “family”! It’s going to be an amazing year!
Fifth Grade Team
Middle School Team
Hello, my name is Kristin Russell and I have been a middle school STEM teacher at FIA since 2017. I am native to the Fayetteville area and both of my children have attended FIA since 2012. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Methodist University Physician Assistant Program in 2004. During my undergraduate years, I became a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society and completed MU’s Honors Program Seminars while studying biology with a concentration in microbiology and cellular biology and a minor in mathematics. I have been practicing as a hospital based physician assistant since 2005 for a local gastroenterology group. In 2013, I started working part time in order to spend more time with my children and my farm animals and compete in dressage with my horses. In 2017, I volunteered as one of the coaches for FIA’s Division A NC Science Olympiad team where my team placed second. Since 2018, I have been honored to serve as head coach for FIA’s Division B NC Science Olympiad team. I am proud to say that our team placed second in the region and moved onto the state competition in 2019. I look forward to continuing to support our students in academic competitions, in addition to showing our students the amazing world of sciences and engineering, developing their love of mathematics, and challenging them in ways that grow their passions and interests.
Hi! My name is Mrs. Nadia Wilson and I am very excited to be joining the wonderful team at First Impressions Academy and becoming your child’s English/ Social Studies teacher. I am looking forward to an exciting school year! It is my goal to provide all students with an educationally challenging, yet fun, experience in my classroom. I have high expectations for your child and I will do all that I can to help your child achieve those expectations. A little about me… I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I received my Bachelor’s of Arts in English Language Literature from Penn State University; go Nittany Lions! After graduation, I moved to North Carolina to teach for Cumberland County Public Schools. While here I met my husband who was stationed at Fort Bragg at the time. In my spare time, I love to watch movies, roller skate and spend time with our infant son, Noah.