Our Team

Hallie Payne, Guide

img_5489-sizedHallie earned a degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in Geography with an emphasis on Human-Environment interactions. This program complemented and reinforced her longtime love of interdisciplinary and whole-systems thinking. Through her education, she gained particular passions for ecology and environmental education, art, and creative writing.

After graduation, Hallie gained a variety of experiences — working with three and four-year-olds at Our Playhouse Preschool, working as part of the education team at Kenai Fjords National Park, spending four years in communications for the University of Florida, and spending two years as a manager on a family-farm in Asheville, NC.

Hallie’s excitement in joining the Acton team comes from getting the chance to support children’s natural curiosity, build their confidence, and delve into the cross-discipline nature of project-based learning.

She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and pets, and enjoys hiking, knitting, playing music, and reading poetry.

Amy Blanchard, Apprentice Guide

Amy graduated university with a degree in government, but she hadn’t yet found what really drove her and excited her. Almost accidentally a year later, she started working with children and finally found her life’s true passion. Within another year, she was enrolled in a graduate program at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, studying early education to further her learning in the field.

While in graduate school, Amy found herself drawn to the Reggio Emilia, project-based model of learning. Her own experiences as a student were starkly different from this approach, and she saw first-hand the ways that relevant curriculum and active learning engaged students of all ages. While teaching as an assistant through graduate school, she also saw approaches to learning that didn’t work. She committed herself to following best practices in her teaching and helping to create spaces where all learners see themselves as valuable members of their school community while holding themselves to high standards set by themselves and their peers.

Amy, her husband and their two children moved here from New Jersey in August of 2015 to start a new chapter in their lives. She loves living in south Durham. She spends her limited free time teaching herself to sew – a passion and artistic outlet of hers. She is very excited to be a part of Acton Academy

Erin Canady, Art Guide

Erin Canady was born and raised in Durham, NC but spent most of her young adulthood in the mountains of Asheville. Before studying art, her academic focus was on East Asian religions. This included a summer session in Thailand where she immersed herself in the study of Buddhism. She spent two months making work at an artist residency in Iceland before earning her Masters in Fine Art from UNC Chapel Hill, where she received the Top Award for Outstanding MFA Work. Based in drawing, her practice explores themes such as ephemerality, meditation, silence, and time-based processes. Erin has exhibited extensively throughout North Carolina and has taught classes and workshops at UNC Chapel Hill, Sawtooth School for Visual Art, and the Carrboro Artscenter. She currently lives in the triangle, where she continues to pursue her passion and remains wholly excited about helping others pursue theirs.

Danielle Sunde, Co-Founder & Head of School

img_5243-sizedDanielle is a mother to four boys and the founder of Our Playhouse Preschool. She is a graduate of Randolph Macon Woman’s College and began her career as an import/export coordinator for a major textile company. She transitioned into marketing for a major national consumer goods brand prior to leaving the full time workforce to be a full time mom. In 2008 Danielle and her husband Jay decided to open a preschool for their sons. Our Playhouse is a Reggio Emilia inspired, play based preschool serving over 200 families at three locations in two states.

Danielle loves to read, travel, and be on and in the water.

Jay Sunde, Co-Founder

Jay is the father of four boys and a Co-Founder of Our Playhouse Preschool. Jay has a degree in finance from Virginia Tech. He worked in corporate finance in the real estate and healthcare industries prior to founding a construction company in 2002. Jay built speculative and custom homes for 7 years prior to co-founding Our Playhouse Preschool and acquiring a pool and spa service business which he continues to operate. Jay loves Folk and Americana music, cooking for his family, and eating at awesome and inspiring restaurants with his oldest son. Jay finds his greatest joy and fulfillment in coaching youth sports and following UNC basketball.