Nichole Genz, Executive Director

Welcome and thank you for visiting The Learning Garden’s website! My name is Nichole Genz and I am the Executive Director. I bring with me 18 fabulous years of experience working within the early childhood education field and various K-12 school systems. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary/Middle Education from Edgewood College and a minor in English & Speech Communication.  I am a lifelong learner and take pride in myself while maintaining my Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction teaching license in grades 1-9.

I have an amazing husband named Scott and together we share 5 children ranging in ages from high school to intermediate school!  We call Evansville, WI home and love living in a small community that offers all the perks of a close-knit city.

I adore coming to work every day! The children, families and staff are amazing. We support one another and are confident that we are the best quality early childhood school in Madison. I am so thrilled to be working in such an outstanding, loving and supportive environment.

Made by my son, Grant age 9.  It’s his digital drawing of The Learning Gardens.

P:  608-238-6700 x100


jacqui-vinje-shields-2-12Kari Drotning, Assistant Director

Hello!  My name is Kari Drotning and I have been working at The Learning Gardens since 2003! Before stepping into my current role as Assistant Director, I was previously a teacher in the Apple Blossom classroom for six years.  In 2009, I stepped in to an administrative role and now enjoy each moment supporting The Learning Gardens families.  I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a minor in Early Childhood Education. In addition, I hold a Registry Credential in Child Care Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

At The Learning Gardens I most enjoy the family atmosphere that we bring to childcare while still being a large center. In fact, my family is literally here! My daughter, Ashlynn is currently enrolled within the MMSD 4K at The Learning Gardens. My son Emmett attends the Waunakee School District and often returns for school age days and annually for Summer Camp at The Learning Gardens.  In addition, my sister Anne is a teacher here too and therefore I am fortunate to see my nephew each day.  While working at The Learning Gardens, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful families, staff and children in my 13 years.  Hopefully I will get to know your family too!

Please let me know if you have any questions, as I am always happy to help!!!

P:  608-238-6700 x102


Hope Wakeley, School Coordinator

Hi, my name is Hope Wakeley! I am a mom of two beautiful little girls! My husband and I moved to Wisconsin from Oklahoma in the last year to be near family, I am originally from New Jersey. I am super excited to be joining The Learning Gardens Team! I have worked around children my whole life and I could not imagine being anywhere else. I have a Bachelor’s in Counseling and Human Services from the University of Scranton. I have traveled the world with the military and have seen children grow and learn in various settings and with each culture being extremely unique. I hope to be a great addition to the team! The Learning Gardens give children the opportunity to grow in so many ways. I love how they give children the chance to try new things out while at school such as swim, Spanish class, dance and so much more. I hope to meet all the great families that come to The Learning Gardens! 

P:  608-238-6700 x101