Our Staff

Sara VanSlyke, Director    
The oldest of four children Sara was born and raised in Tucson by Minnesota parents. Her childhood was happily spent enjoying her fun loving family and exploring the incredible desert with its ancient ruins, pottery chards, and unique ecosystem. As a teenager she played hundreds of hours of tennis, and rode her Palomino through monsoon swollen arroyos and cactus covered hills. Sara graduated from Sahuaro High School and the U of A with a major in Sociology and minors in Religious Studies and Business. Sara also was very fortunate to travel for a semester on World Campus Afloat.

After college Sara taught in after school programs and four different preschools, and went back to school to pursue a nursing degree. When she finally finished all the prerequisites and started nursing school she realized that her real passion was Early Childhood Education, so she was inspired to open Desert Spring Children’s Center with co-founder Jan Kinkade. Sara and Jan started the planning process in 1985 and opened the doors in May 1987. The last 25 years has been an amazing joyous journey. Sara is grateful everyday for the children and their families that bless her life.


Dee Altuna, Mountain Room Educator    
Dee was born and raised in Arizona. She holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Journalism and from Pima Community College in Early Childhood Education. Dee believes that children learn through exploring the world around them. Dee plans learning activities that provoke creativity,  imagination, play, and time in nature.

Kiana Solis, Monsoon Room Educator 
Bio coming soon!


Andrea Padilla, Rainbow Room Educator    
Bio coming soon!