Our Team


Melissa Callahan

Director/ Owner

Melissa received her Bachelor of Music Education degree in 2005 from the University of Arizona with an emphasis on voice. For over a decade, Melissa was employed by Tucson Unified for the Opening Minds through the Arts (OMA) program as an Elementary Arts Integration Specialist, a Smart Art Summer School coordinator, and as an Exploratory Residence teacher, serving over 10 schools throughout Tucson. She also has experience training other teachers to become more comfortable with arts-integration in their daily practice. Melissa enjoys playing guitar, piano, recorder and singing with students everyday.


Alma Samaniego

Assistant Director/ Lead Teacher

Alma brings over 14 years of experience in early childhood education to Small Marvels. As a teacher and a mother of 3, she believes her role in the classroom and in the lives of children is to create a caring community of active learners. Alma helps design our arts-rich lesson plans, establishes relationships with children and their families, and emphasizes the importance of respect, equality and diversity, incorporating bi-lingual Spanish instruction into her curriculum.


Vanessa Saraficio

Director’s Designee/ Lead Teacher/ After School Co-ordinator

Vanessa holds her Associate of Arts Degree from Bacone College for American Indians in Muskogee OK. She has been working in childcare since 2007, performing multiple duties as a teacher/caregiver, driver, after-school co-ordinator, receptionist, cook and custodian! She is an active member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and is fluent in O’odham. Vanessa’s goal is to ensure that children feel safe and secure so she can empower them to make positive life choices.


Coley Nielsen

Lead Teacher/ Art Teacher

Coley Nielsen studied visual arts at Belhaven University in Jackson MS and graduated with a BA in art. She is an active artist working in mixed media as well as an art teacher at Small Marvels. The lessons she teaches are primarily process-oriented and she loves seeing the children’s enthusiastic response to art materials as they take the projects in their own unique directions. Coley is actively involved in several professional development programs and is eager to expand her knowledge of early childhood development.


Christine Greer

Assistant Teacher/ After School Coordinator

Christine Greer earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Film & Television from the University of Arizona. She has worked at both the Tucson Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson. Through those experiences, she became passionate about youth arts education. Christine is actively involved in expanding her knowledge of early childhood education through several professional development opportunities. She enjoys building children’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and gross motor development through imaginative play.


Allison Saine

After School Teaching Assistant

Allison Saine has been working with children in an early childhood setting for over 10 years. Allison currently facilitates the Healthy Play Program at Davidson Elementary and assists at Small Marvels with the afternoon transition from our preschool to our Afterschool program. Allison encourages students to develop skills in interpersonal connections and communication using her training of developmentally appropriate practices for Early Childhood through the Las Familias Community of Practice.


Elizabeth Estrella

Elizabeth Estrella is an honors sophomore at the University of Arizona pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Early Childhood Elementary Education. While caring for and educating preschoolers at Small Marvels, she is also a Resident Assistant for Villa Del Puente Hall at the U of A. Children have been her passion since a very young age and she is excited to be given an enriching opportunity to gain hands on experience in the field she loves.