Meet our Staff.
Miss Melissa Raad
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/child care 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 23 and Grace is 20. They are both intelligent, silly, loving young ladies and being their mom is my favorite job and greatest gift. We also have my 14-year-old nephew, Justin, living with us now. So, I am remembering how to parent a middle schooler and learning how to parent a boy! He is so fun and we love having him with us! My family is the light of my life!
Things I enjoy: being with my family, children, gardening, hiking, biking, photography, animals, music, singing on the worship team at my church, changing seasons, sleeping in late, motorcycles, 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 people and to spend my days with your precious children!
My name is Ali Besler. I have lived in the Spearfish area for the last 12 years, but I’m originally from Rapid City. I came to Spearfish to obtain my Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, Minor in Early Childhood Education, and Endorsement in Kindergarten. I graduated in May of 2011 from BHSU.
I am married to my best friend, Josh and together we have three children. Addison (12) is my step-daughter and is in her 2nd year of middle school. She is very creative and a big help around our home and ranch. Treydon (10) is my step-son and will be in fifth grade this year. He has a great sense of humor and is the best brother a sister could ask for. Vivian (6) is our little firecracker and started Kindergarten this year.
I am starting my ninth year here at Children First and will be a part-time administrative assistant in the office in the Tuesdays & Wednesdays. Often my days are spent at our family ranch, where we host weddings, parties and dances. I have 2 pretty amazing jobs! When I am not working I love to run, shop, and spend time with my family.
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 12 years and I have loved every minute of it. I am married to Shane and we have two children Baylee (17) and Preston (14). They keep us very busy with dance and golf. 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.
Hi I’m Rose Ludeman and I will be teaching the four and five year old preschool class with Miss Sarah. This is my 8th year at Children First and my 7th year teaching the 4/5 year old class. My husband Wade and I have two sons, Theodore and Otto and our two dogs Nacho and Otis. My husband and I own the Downtown Gym also. I previously taught English online to students in China, Japan and South Korea with Eleutian Technology. I love exploring other cultures and hope to help my students develop a curiosity for their world. I will be integrating Music, Art and PE into our lessons and day to day activities, as I feel this is the critical time to help foster a child’s love for these areas of education. My family likes to spend time outdoors in the hills and also at my parent’s ranch near New Underwood. I love to stay active through rec volleyball and previously coached 8th grade girls’ basketball for SMS. I enjoy cooking and reading as well. I am very excited to teach your children but also to learn from them!
My name is Becky Hiermeier. I am the 3 year old Preschool Teacher. I have been in the child care and preschool field for a total of 20 years and love the joy and fulfillment it brings me. I received my Child Development Credential in Early Childhood 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 11 years, this being my tenth 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’m busy running to numerous sporting events. I enjoy being outside working in the yard or enjoying the beautiful surrounding of Spearfish. I look forward to a fun and enriching school year!
Hello, my name is Emily Culver and I am the lead teacher of the toddler room. I have been working at Children First since May of 2013, shortly after I graduated from high school, and I have completely fallen in love with this job. I enjoy spending time with the kids and watching them grow and blossom throughout the school year.
I grew up on small ranch just a few miles out of Spearfish and have lived there my whole life. I love Spearfish and the amazing surroundings we are blessed with here.
I have been married to my high school sweetheart and best friend for almost five years now and we have a sweet one year old boy named Wren. When I am not here at work I spend most of my free time doing adventurous things with my husband and family. I love camping and taking in the outdoors. I also enjoy watching and playing soccer. I am thrilled to be working with your children this year and look forward to seeing them learn and grow!
Hello, I’m Hunter Schmuck! I’m the Afternoon Enrichment teacher and I’ll also be teaching in the Butterfly Preschool room. I received my Elementary Education degree and Early Childhood minor from Black Hills State University.
Most of my life has been spent in a dance studio, where I realized my passion for teaching children at an early age as a dance instructor. I’ve also worked at a local clothing boutique for the last 9 years. I enjoy dancing, practicing yoga, being active and spending time with my family.
Hello, my name is Vicki Donnelly. It is my honor to be the Lead Teacher in the Children First Infant Room. I grew up on a farm in Martin, SD, graduated from High School in 1983 and headed to the beautiful Black Hills to attend college. Previous job history includes being a Supervisor/Waitress at the Cedar House Restaurant for 20 years. In 2003 I pursued my dream of caring for children and began work at Sunrise Preschool as Lead Teacher of the Infant Room. In 2006 we moved to Glendive, MT where it was a privilege to be employed at Our Savior Preschool as Head of the One Year Old Room. My husband, Steve, retired and we moved back to Spearfish.
My daughter, Kasha, lives in St Cloud, MN and has two beautiful daughters of her own. My Stepson Sean, Pastor of the Black Hills Baptist Church, lives in Whitewood and has three wonderful wee ones.
Growing up on a farm, I still have dirt in my blood and love being outside digging in the dirt growing flowers and Roses.
I love children of all ages and am looking forward to being a part of your precious little ones life.
I’m Kylie Takacs and I’m a student at Black Hills State University. I’m going for elementary education with a minor in early childhood. I have grown up here in Spearfish and it couldn’t have been a better place to do so. I graduated at Spearfish High School in 2016. I enjoy being outdoors and traveling. The photo above was actually taken in Melbourne, Australia! I’m very outgoing and like to have a good chat with anyone! I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher since I was a young. Being with children and watching them grow into themselves is amazing. I’m excited to work with your children and here at Children First!
Hello! My name is Tayci and I am a junior at BHSU. I am majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in reading. I love working with children, hence the education major. I am from Sheridan, Wyoming. While I may have graduated from Sheridan, I have moved around a lot, specifically 7 times in my lifetime! I enjoy traveling around, going to concerts, and doing whatever gets my heart racing. In the past year I have gone to many concerts, went skydiving, and traveled thousands of miles! I love hanging out with my family and also making memories with my friends at my side.
Hi there! My name is Grace Raad and I am 19 years old. I am a sub here at Children First. I was born and raised in Spearfish, and I just couldn’t bear to leave. I graduated from Spearfish High School and am now a freshman in college. I am currently taking online courses through Dakota State and plan to major in cyber operations. I know, now you are wondering why I am working here, and I am here because I love working with kids. I have been babysitting as long as I can remember. Other than spending time with kids, my favorite things are spending time with my puppy, family, and friends; dancing; and singing. I am also helping out with some classes at Black Hills Dance Centre. I hope to continue to be able to work with kids because I love seeing them learn and grow along with their bright shining smiles, and I am so very excited and grateful for this opportunity to be able to work with your children!
Hello! My name is Kayla Garvin, and I will be an aide with Miss Emily in the toddler room for the 2019-2020 school year. I started my journey at Children First after I graduated from Spearfish High School in May of 2010. After working closely with the children for four years, I started to attend college with a major in Psychology and a minor in Early Childhood Education. After about 2 years of school, I took a break from both classes and Children First to work as a nanny for 9 months. Now, I am back with my original family and I can’t wait to see where the year goes! I love spending time with children and taking the time to figure out how their precious little minds work!
When I am not working I enjoy going to the gym, watching the Food Network, hanging out with my boyfriend Dalton, and spending time with both of our big families.
I’m so excited to get the opportunity to start another year at Children First. I look forward to spending the months ahead learning and growing right along with your children!
My name is Taylor Guthmiller and I will be working at Children First part-time. I was born and raised in Spearfish, and graduated from BHSU in 2015. I studied Early Childhood Education for 3.5 years, but ultimately obtained a Business Marketing degree.
I am now a mother to two beautiful boys, Keller (3) and Harris (6mo), my biggest accomplishments. I spend all my free time with them, loving every moment! I was raised Montessori-style and enjoy teaching my sons with the same concepts. I am excited to spend my time with wonderful, bright children!
Hi!! I’m Sydney Deppe! I am 22 years old and a junior at Black Hills State University studying Elementary Education. I am excited to be Miss Becky’s aide this year! I grew up in Alexandria, South Dakota, a tiny farm town just east of Sioux Falls. But have made Spearfish my home for the last 4 years. I am number eight in a family of ten children, seven brothers and two sisters. Having such a large family has really inspired my passion for teaching! I volunteer at Connection Church Spearfish as a childrens bible study teacher. My hobbies include: hiking or doing anything outdoors, cooking, reading, and spending time with my friends and Family.
Hello! My name is Taylor Myers and I am currently 20 years old. I am originally from Evanston Wyoming, in a family of 4 with only one sister. I am a Junior at Black Hills State University and am studding psychology. My end goal is to have my own practice in Applied Behavior Analysis – that will come after grad school! I love to spend time with my family, go hunting with my dad, spend time in the mountains, get muddy and play volleyball. I love working with kids and am excited for this school year!
My name is Baylee Hazledine and I started working at Children First in April. My mom ran an in home daycare when I was younger and I have spent a lot of time at Children First so I have been around kids my whole life.
I will be a senior this fall at Spearfish High School. My college plans are undecided at this time. I enjoy hanging out with my friends, hiking, spending time with my family and dancing with Kids and Co. Dance Company. I look forward to spending time with all of the friends at Children First.
My name is Jenna Geist and I started working at Children Firs in June and have loved every minute of being here. I will be attending Black Hills State University this fall and plan to study Elementary Education/ Early Childhood Education.
I have lived in Spearfish my whole life. My mom ran an in home daycare when I was younger so I have had a lot of experience with children of all ages. In my free time I like to golf, go hiking and hang out with my friends. I am looking forward to a fun school year at Children First getting to know the friends and families.
My name is Jordan Brooks and I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I moved to Spearfish to continue school. I am studying biology so I can later go on to become a pediatrician. I have six younger brothers and I am the only girl. I also have two dogs, a cat, and 16 pet chickens. On my free time, I like to shop, watch Netflix, and try new foods.
Hi my name is Leighton Marso and I am a student at Black Hills State University. I am from Sioux Falls, SD, but I came here to get my degree in Elementary Education, with a minor in reading.
I love sports and doing anything outside. I love it here in the Black Hills because the area allows me to go hiking, hammocking, and much more! I also love watching movies and Netflix. I have always loved kids so I am very excited to work with your kids here at Children First.
Hello, my name is Jada Jones. I grew up in the small town of Midland, SD but I went to school in Philip, SD. I am currently studying Elementary Education with a minor in Reading at BHSU. I will graduate next spring and I am so excited to start my teaching career and show kids that learning is fun and will take them places!
I have a toy Australian Shepherd puppy named Chance that I consider to be my baby. Things I enjoy to do are hanging out with my friends, family, boyfriend and dog. I enjoy doing DIY projects and hairstyles and exploring our world. I have been to Washington, D.C., New York, California, all of the Midwest states and I want to travel even more. I don’t consider working with children a job but as something I really do enjoy so I am excited to work at this establishment and with your kids!