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.
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.
Lindsay Quattrone- Office Assistant/Permanent Substitute
Justin Hubbard- Music
Sherry Young- Art
Hello there, I am Sherry Young, an innovative visual artist, and art teacher, now blessed to be part of the FIA family of educators. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach and inspire our students to imagine with all their minds, believe with all their hearts, and achieve with all their might. I received my bachelor’s degree in Art at UNCP with many courses focused on education. My classes are built around the elements of art and the principles of design to enhance whole learning and personal development. Our projects are process-driven that allow the artist to develop their ideas and visual voice. We guide our students with a well-rounded exposure to see the beauty and possibilities all around them and tackle life’s challenges with creativity and enthusiasm, learning to think like an artist! I’m excited about this program! It’s a culmination of my years as an artist and years of teaching, education, and parenting!
Kate Meador- P.E.
I have been coaching here at FIA for six 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. I have worked at FIA since 2015 and have loved working with our students to give them a love for fitness and health.
Floridaly Oyola- Spanish
Hi! My name is Floridaly Oyola. I am very excited and blessed to be part of FIA as the new Spanish teacher. My Bachelor’s degree is in Secondary Education in History with several graduate courses in Cultural Studies. I belonged to the Historians of Puerto Rico, my native country. My first language is Spanish and my second language is English which I learned in the ESL program when I belonged to the ARMY. I have 6 years of experience being a bilingual teacher in Puerto Rico and this past year I was a preschool teacher assistant in North Carolina. In my free time I enjoy going out with my family to see new places and whenever I see a party, I enjoy dancing “bomba, a traditional Puerto Rican dance”. I am excited to be able to teach Spanish in a fun and interesting way.
Beckie Smith- Character Education
Hi! My name is Beckie Smith and it is my first year at First Impressions! I am so excited that I get to be a part of such an awesome school and that I get to help jump-start the Character Education program! I graduated from Campbell University in December of 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, with a minor in English! I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy through an online program with Northcentral University. I also work part-time at another school in the area and love all of the students I get to teach! In my free time I enjoy crafting, listening to true crime podcasts and cuddling with my dog; Daisy. I can’t wait to see where this year takes us!
Freda Smith- Special Education Tutor/Attendance Coordinator
I am excited to be starting my 6th year at FIA. My elementary through middle school years were spent here in Fayetteville and I attended high school in Germany, due to my father being in the military. My teaching career started here in North Carolina in the Fall of 1990. I’ve taught in Scotland and Cumberland County. I earned my Elementary Education degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham. My husband of 30 years is a retired Fayetteville firefighter and we have two grown children. I have always enjoyed listening to music and reading. I thoroughly enjoy watching others (children, and adults as well) learn and grow into the best versions of themselves. I’m looking forward to helping students continue on their path of being lifelong learners.
Preschool Team & Kinder Prep Team
Ms. Kim- Preschool Lead/Aftercare Lead
Hi, my name is Kim Hall and I am very excited to be teaching Pre-K. I am also the lead of FIA’s before and aftercare program. I have been at First Impressions Academy since 2014. 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 husband, my family, and friends.
Ms. Lorena- Preschool Lead
Hello! My name is Lorena Hauffen, most of FIA’s staff and students know me as Mrs. Lolo. I have been here at FIA for a total of 6 years! First, in 2015-2017 working as a teacher aide, then returning in 2020 as the Spanish Resource teacher. I am originally from California where I found my love for teaching working as a Paraeducator . The military brought my husband and myself back to North Carolina, where we welcomed two baby girls in the last two years! In my spare time, you can catch me doing a variety of things from relaxing with a good book to getting out of my routine and exploring new environments. I am so excited to be part of the Preschool/Kinder-Prep squad here at FIA for the 2023-2024 school year!
Ms. Nakia- Preschool Aide
Hello, my name is Nakia Smith. I’m fairly new to North Carolina, originally from New Jersey. I have a passion for kids and always wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. I’ve been in the education field for 14yrs with various positions such as, after school teacher, camp counselor, substitute teacher and teacher assistant. I have my Associates degree in Early Childhood education and plan to go back to school for my bachelors degree. I hope to own my own daycare one day. I’m looking forward to a fantastic year here at FIA!!!!
Ms. Sarah- Kinder Prep Lead
My name is Sarah Ferry. I am a military spouse and mother of 2 boys. I taught at FIA for the 2019-2020 school year then had to PCS. I have experience in all elementary grades except kindergarten and I homeschooled my oldest son. My degree is in elementary education from Northern Michigan University. I am so excited to work in pre K this year!
Ms. Ashley- Kinder Prep Lead
Hello! My name is Ashley Toston and I am beyond thrilled to be teaching Kindergarten at FIA this year! This is my fourth year as part of the FIA family, and I am excited for this new journey with your children. I moved to North Carolina from California. I received my bachelor’s and Master’s degree in elementary education and an administrative credential from California State University Channel Islands. I have previously taught in the California public school system as a kindergarten teacher for six years. In my free time I love to work out, play with my dogs, hike and enjoy the outdoors. I am looking forward to another amazing year at FIA!
Hi, my name is Courtney Davis. I am so excited to be teaching kindergarten here at FIA and be a part of your child’s education! This will be my second year teaching at FIA but my 7th year teaching overall. I received my bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Mayville State University. I am originally from Texas but moved to North Carolina due to the Air Force. In my free time, I love to spend time with my husband and two children, being outside, and traveling. I look forward to having another great year at FIA!
Hi! My name is Tiffany Baker and this is my third year teaching kindergarten but my 11th year teaching. I’ve also taught prekindergarten for a year and 1st grade for six years. I am originally from Pennsylvania. I have my Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education from Pennsylvania College of Technology and my Bachelors in Pre-K – 4th Grade/ Early Childhood Education from Lock Haven University. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, being outside, and watching movies.
First Grade Team
Hello! I am originally from the state of Utah, west coast, city girl, transplanted to North Carolina 2 years ago. Before that I lived overseas for 12 years (9.5 in Germany and 2.5 in Korea), as my husband works for DOD. I spent 11 years working for DoDea school system (military) as a full time/long term substitute. I have been married for 31 years to the best man and we have 3 adult children and 4 super cute grands. Eddie is our 14-year-old Yorkie. We have enjoyed traveling the world with our kids and now just the two of us. I LOVE diet coke (especially from McDonalds), watching tv, traveling, art museums (Europe was a dream!), collecting children’s books, gardening, and spending every minute I can with my family.
While overseas after raising my own kids, I decided to finish my schooling and surprised myself by earning my bachelors in Elementary Education. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be in education, but from experience, I learned that it was something I was good at and enjoyed. I spent my first year back in the states teaching public school but am very relieved and happy to be with FIA! I am excited to continue my teaching, in 1st grade.
Hello! My name is Naiomi Palomares and this will be my first year teaching first grade at FIA! I am originally from Georgia, where I recieved my Bachelors degree in Education from Valdosta State University. I am going on my second year of teaching first grade, and am beyond excited to be joining the FIA family! I love the fact that I get to do what I love everyday. I love to teach, but more importantly, I love to watch kids learn and use their knowledge to push them forward!
In my spare time I also love to go hiking, eat new foods, and spend time with my husband and our dog Mia. I am excited to see all of the wonderful things we will accomplish in this upcoming year!
Second Grade Team
My name is Lauren Runde and I am so excited to be teaching 2nd grade at FIA. This is my 5th year at FIA and I’m so happy to be a part of the FIA family! I am originally from Kansas City, Missouri where I received my Bachelors in Elementary Education and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Northwest Missouri State University. I have moved around a bit since marrying my husband, but I have spent most of my career teaching 2nd and 3rd grade. I love spending time outdoors with my husband, our two boys, and our dog, Cash. I am looking forward to an amazing year at FIA!
Hi there! My name is Caitlyn Stricklin, and I am so excited to be teaching 2nd grade here at FIA! This is my Fourth year teaching at FIA, but I have a total of about 11 years total experience in the classroom. I have 2 young boys, and feel so blessed to have them in my life! We moved to North Carolina from my home state, Texas, due to the Army! I have been given so many opportunities to get classroom experience in my young years, and I feel so lucky to take advantage of that here with your children! I am an open book, so please reach out to me with whatever you may need for your children!
Third Grade Team
My name is Annah Wilson and this is my second year with FIA! I am originally from a small town in southwest Virginia and moved to Fayetteville this summer with my husband of four years. Before moving here, we lived on the east coast of Virginia where I worked with PreK-3rd grade students. I believe that learning should be engaging, exciting and creative! In my free time, I enjoy taking our dog, Rudy, on walks, reading for fun, or working on house projects! I am so excited to be teaching at FIA, it is going to be a great year!
Teaching is my happy place and I can’t believe I get to join the First Impressions Academy team! This will be my second year teaching third grade and I am so excited. I received my bachelors and masters degrees at Longwood University in Farmville Virginia. Immediately after the completion of my program we relocated to Palm Bay Florida, and now we are stationed at Fort Liberty. My husband, Ryan, was in the reserves for the Coast Guard for about 6 years before switching over to Active Duty Army about nine months ago. This military life for me, however, is totally new! I love to cook, read, and try out new restaurants. I also love to visit the beach! I can’t wait to meet you FIA family!
Fourth Grade Team
Hi! My name is Jamie Dale, and I am so excited to teach fourth grade. This is my Sixth year at FIA. I have been a classroom teacher for the past 16 years. I have taught a variety of grades and coached middle school softball and HS cheerleading! 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 cheerleading 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!
My name is Nicole Bernabe, This is my second year working with First Impressions Academy and I am so excited to meet new faces. I was born and raised in the Philippines and received my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I’ve worked in different countries such as Singapore before deciding to move in the US. I have worked in schools at different states because we are a military family. I love to play video games with my husband and go on trails with our two huskies and our 2 year old baby boy.
Fifth Grade Team
My name is Jennifer Hyatt and I am thrilled to be teaching 5th grade this year at FIA! This is my 6th year as part of the FIA family, and I absolutely love teaching here. I previously taught Kindergarten for 3 years and “rolled up” with my students to 1st grade for my 4th year. I taught 4th grade last year and am looping up again with my kiddos to 5th for the 23/24 school year. I am a native of North Carolina and grew up in the mountains in beautiful Boone NC. I received my Bachelors degree in Elementary Education, with a double minor in Reading and Social Studies from Appalachian State University in 2012. After teaching 2nd grade in Harnett County, we moved to Ft Campbell KY, and I taught three years in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. I went back to school and received my Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University in 2015. After taking some time off to stay home with our oldest daughter Ellie, the Army brought us back to Fayetteville. I was so excited to find FIA to be able to continue my teaching career, and enable my daughter to have the best educational experience. Ellie is now in 2nd and our toddler, Scarlett is in the staff nursery. FIA is our home, and we are so excited for another year!
My name is Kristi Knowles and this is my first year teaching fifth grade at First Impressions Academy, and I am so excited to be here! This will be my seventh year teaching. I have taught both fourth and fifth grade. I also helped run the musical program at my last school. I completed most of my teaching degree at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where I am originally from. I finished my degree at New Mexico State University in 2007. My degree background is in Music Education, but after moving to Utah I became licensed to teach grades 1-8. Being in a military family, I have moved several times over the past seventeen years. My family and I recently moved to Fayetteville from Ogden, Utah. My husband is in the Air Force, and we have three sons together. They are excited to be living on the east coast. My past students will tell you how much I enjoy singing songs to encourage learning in my classroom and also, singing just to have fun!
Middle School Team
Ms. Reardon- Math/Social Studies
My name is Brittany Reardon and I teach Middle School Math and Social Studies. This will be my fifth year at FIA! I worked in classrooms as a paraeducator, substitute teacher, and lead teacher for the last eight years. Teaching, for me, is about igniting a love for learning within each child that comes into my room. I am originally from Colorado where I began my education at the University of Northern Colorado. After accepting a position as a Paraeducator, I transferred to Grand Canyon University where I received my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (K-8). After graduation, I began my career as a fifth-grade teacher in Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. My husband and I then moved to Fort Bragg, I found FIA, and the rest is history! I am honored to be part of the FIA family and look forward to another amazing year!
Ms. Estacio- English/Language Arts
Ms. Swanson- Science/S.T.E.M
Hello! My name is Amanda Swanson. I want to let you know how excited I am that I will be returning as the Middle School Science/STEM teacher. I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Early Childhood and Special Education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. This will be my eighth year teaching and second year at FIA. I have taught a variety of grade levels to include Middle School ages. I promise to work hard and make this a fantastic, successful school year for your child. I believe the key to success in Science and STEM is providing hands-on experiences that foster all learning styles. I utilize a project-based learning approach in my curriculums and cherish the rapport I build with the students and their families. A little about me, I am originally from Pennsylvania. We moved here to pursue my passion of teaching. We have since bought a home and have a wonderful son. A few things I enjoy are reading, being outdoors, coaching basketball, and cooking. To that end, I am so looking forward to sharing this school year with you and your child. I am confident that your child will have a fun year and I am looking forward to sharing the year with you!
A New Leaf Academy Team
Hi! My name is Brittney, and I am so excited to teach at FIA’s newest venture, A New Leaf Academy. My son Ethan, went undiagnosed with three types of dyslexia, ADD, and anxiety for many years. As a teaching professional helping families and personally as a mother seeking services for my son, I have seen the challenges we face as a community with a lack of services available, specifically for those with Autism and other related learning disabilities. The one thing I saw over and over again were families who needed support.
Children with Autism and those on the Autism Spectrum need therapy and an education system with a curriculum specifically designed to meet the needs of their individual abilities just as much as neuro-typical and advanced students. This is why I’m so excited to be a part of the FIA family. This is my first year at FIA but I am no stranger to teaching. The military moved my husband and our family to Raeford in 2019 from Florida. I have been teaching for the last 9 years (the last 2 years as an ESE teacher)! I graduated top 3% in my class from Florida State University in elementary education K-6th grade in 2011.
I have taught multiple grade levels, and coached middle school softball and soccer as well as coached and played adult coed/military softball. My husband and I have three wonderful children (6,11&13) who keep us very busy. We are a gymnastics, ax throwing, martial arts, wrestling, hiking, and camping loving family (son is a Junior Olympic gymnast). We love animals! One day we hope to run our own animal shelter and adoption center. We enjoy the outdoors and spending time creating new adventures together. I am so excited to be a part of the FIA family and to be a part of something new and invigorating at FIA/A New Leaf! It’s going to be an amazing year and an even more amazing future.