Our Philosophy

First Place Academy focuses on the development of the "Whole Child". We foster social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual development in the preschool age child, all built on a strong Christian foundation. First Place Academy is defined as a non-profit private Christian school. The program is very unique and offers the highest quality early childhood educational program for children 3-5 years of age. We believe in the importance of creating a balance that will build a strong foundation for educational development in a Christian atmosphere. Our highly structured classroom setting is equipped with a kindergarten readiness curriculum, loving experienced and professional staff, creative art activities, Spanish language enrichment, music, and weekly chapel services provided by the FBC Children's Pastor. We are licensed by the State of Arkansas and exceed all requirements and recommendations.


First Place Academy is where children come first! Preparing for our children's future by establishing an educational foundation based on the principles and love of Jesus Christ.

Meet Our Pastor

At First Baptist Van Buren we believe God has called us to the mission of winning people to a life-changing, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We know young families in the River Valley need a place that will prepare their preschoolers intellectually, relationally, and spiritually for their next steps in life. That is why we have an amazing ministry called First Place Academy. Our teachers and leaders are phenomenal and the kids receive the best preschool experience you will find anywhere. My own daughter graduated from First Place and we were so thrilled about every aspect of her experience.


First Baptist Van Buren cares about you and your family and it would be our privilege to be able to serve you through First Place Academy! And if you don’t have a church home, we would love to welcome you home to First Baptist Van Buren.




Pastor Chris

Find us on the web!  


Dianna Elkins, Founder

Becky Petty, First Place Academy Director

Anna Dickens, Assistant Director

Amy Bender, Lead PreK Teacher

Kristi Weir, PreK Teacher

Shannon Irwin, PreK Teacher

Molly Freeman, Lead Three Year Old Teacher


Alicia Simmons, Three Year Old Teacher

Linda Bagby and Lisa Braeuninger, Three Year Old Teachers

Priscilla Surls, Afternoon Teacher


Debi Chitwood, Afternoon Teacher

Holly Mae Simmons, Afternoon Teacher

Allison Hopkins, Afternoon Teacher

Kelsey Phillips, Afternoon Teacher

Shauna Moore, PreK Teacher

Chelsea Sheffield, FBC Preschool Director and FPA Chapel Leader

Elaine Crawford, Financial Secretary

Our History