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Meet the Team

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Melissa Raad

Director of Children First

Hi, my name is Melissa Raad.  I am the Director of Children First.  I have been with Children First since we opened our doors on June 1, 2008.  Working with children is my passion!  Prior to coming to Children First I was co-owner and director of another preschool/childcare center for 10 years.  I have taught preschool, kindergarten and 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 7th grades.  I also taught the childbirth education classes at the hospital for 6 years, which I loved. 

I am married to my best friend and we have two daughters, Emily is 27 and Grace is 24.  They are both intelligent, silly, loving, young ladies and being their mom is my favorite job and greatest gift. My family is the light of my life! 

Things I enjoy: being with my family, children, gardening, hiking, biking, photography, animals, music, singing, changing seasons, sleeping in late,  boating, cooking, living in the beautiful Black Hills, reading and enjoying time spent with those I love. 

It is an honor to work with such a fabulous group of women and to spend my days with your precious children!

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Sarah Hazledine

Childcare Supervisor & Preschool Teacher 

Hello, my name is Sarah Hazledine and I am the 4 and 5 year old preschool teacher in the Butterfly Room. I am also the Childcare Supervisor here at Children First. I have been working at Children First for 14 years and I have loved every minute of it. I am married to Shane and we have two children Baylee (21) and Preston (18). They keep us very busy. 


When I am not at Children First I enjoy working in my yard, camping, reading and spending time with my family in the beautiful Black Hills. I am looking forward to another fun school year at Children First.

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Emily Culver

Preschool Teacher 

Hi, my name is Emily Culver and I work in the 4 and 5 year old preschool classroom. I have been working at Children First since May of 2013, shortly after I graduated high school, and I have completely fallen in love with this job. I enjoy spending time with the children and watching them grow and blossom throughout the school year.


I grew up on a small ranch a few miles outside of Spearfish and have lived here my whole life. I am lucky enough to have my brother as a neighbor on one side and my mom as a neighbor on the other side. I love this town and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. 

I have been married to my high school sweetheart and best friend for 8 years now and we have two sweet boys, Wren (4) and Arthur (1) and our dog Nora. When I am not at work, I spend most of my free time adventuring outside with my family. I love camping and being outdoors. I am thrilled to be working with your children this year and look forward to seeing them learn and grow.


Becky Hiermeier

Preschool Teacher 

My name is Becky Hiermeier. I am the 3 year old Preschool Teacher. I have been in the childcare and preschool field for over 20 years and love the joy and fulfillment it brings me. I received my Child Development Credential in Early Education in 1996 and I am a certified Montessori Teacher. I have worked as a preschool teacher in Montana, Arizona, and South Dakota which I consider home. I have been with Children First for 13 years, this being my 12th year as a Preschool Teacher. I enjoy coming to work each day to nurture, guide and teach young children. I truly feel this is my calling and feel blessed to have the opportunity to do so. 

I am married to my high school sweetheart Mel. We have five children, Rachel, Jessica, Elisabeth, Josef, and Jesse. I am a Grandmother to a beautiful Granddaughter. When I am not working, I enjoy being outside, spending time in my garden or enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Spearfish. I look forward to a fun and enriching school year!

Abby Carlson

Co-Lead Toddler Teacher

Hello! My name is Abby and I go to Black Hills State University for Early Childhood Special Education. I started working at Children First after I observed here for school. I loved the atmosphere, children, and staff during my observation hours and wanted more time with them!

From babysitting, to nursery at church, to teaching horseback riding lessons, I have been blessed to be around children for my entire life. In my free time, I like to ride horses, hike, rock climb, drink coffee, babysit, and hang out with my friends and family. I'm so glad I get to spend time with your kiddos!

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Angie Smith

Co-Lead Toddler Teacher

Hi, my name is Angie Smith. I started working here at Children First in June of 2023. I moved here to the Spearfish area in August of 2020, as my mom's family is from here, after living in Ohio for 23 years and raising our children. I've been married to my husband, Gary, for almost 31 years. We have two children together Katelyn (29) and Jarrett (24). We also have Yvonne and Nick from Gary's previous marriage, who blessed us with four grandchildren, ranging from the ages of 21 to 9.

I have worked in the early education field on and off during my career for over 12 years. I have been a toddler teacher, a Head Start co-teacher, and a preschool teacher. I have my Child Development Credential in Early Education, and love to spend time taking webinars and attending early childhood summits to continue to learn ways to best meet the needs of the children and families I work with. 

When I am not working, I enjoy being an active member of Spearfish UMC, participating as a Sunday school teacher. I also participate with the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, helping out with events that take place throughout the year. I enjoy spending time with my family, going to see all the beautiful sites around this area! I also enjoy reading, baking, and listening to country music. I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful organization! I look forward to getting to know the children and families here at Children First.

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Vicki Donnelly

Lead Waddler Teacher

My name is Vicki Donnelly, I am the Lead One Year Old Room Teacher. I grew up on a farm in Martin S.D. I graduated from high school in 1983 and came to Spearfish to attend BHSU. I worked as a supervisor/waitress at Cedar House for 20 yrs. In 2003 I decided to follow my dreams of teaching children and began working for Sunrise Preschool as a Lead teacher in the infant room.

In 2006, we moved to Glendive, MT for my husband's job, where I was employed at Our Saviors preschool as Lead teacher in the 1-year-old room. My husband, Steve, retired and we moved back to Spearfish. I have been employed at Children First for 7 years, both as a Lead teacher in the infant room and as an aide.

I love children of all ages, and I am looking forward to being a part of your precious child's life!

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Grace Raad

Lead Infant Teacher

Hi there! My name is Grace Raad, and I am the Lead Infant Room Teacher. I was born and have been raised here in the Black Hills and I have no plans to leave! I have been working at Children First since the fall of 2018 and I have loved every minute of it. In the beginning I was just subbing, but I found myself here more and more. I now work full time while working towards a major in Cyber Operations online through Dakota State University. I love to learn, and that is one of my favorite things about working with kids. They teach you something new every day!

I spend most of my free time with my dog Tommi, my family, and my boyfriend, Parker. I also love to dance, so I volunteer to help as often as possible at Black Hills Dance Centre. I do believe that we have one of the best jobs ever, and I am very excited to see what this school year has in store for us!

Your parent app connects you directly to teachers

The Brightwheel app is where you receive pictures and notifications about your child's day, so you stay in the know of your child's early learning and stay a partner in their school success.

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