Our Administrative Staff


Hope Ballentine, Executive Director

Hello! My name is Hope Ballentine and I am the Executive Director here at The Learning Gardens. I began working here in the summer of 2017 and could not imagine being anywhere else. Before coming to The Learning Gardens, I was in the military, as a Field Artillery Officer. Before all of these adventures I was just a girl from New Jersey, who attended University of Scranton where I studied Counseling and Human Services. I have also received my Administration Credential through UW Platteville and currently working on my second bachelor’s for Education to receive DPI licenses through UW Superior. I am currently blessed to be a wife and mom. I have two little girls, Julianna and Isabella. My passion is this field of Early Education, I believe Early Education is the foundation to a child’s life. We spend countless hours with young children, and we have the ability to help mold them into kind, smart outgoing young children. We have the ability to open their minds to all of the amazing things our world has to offer and help expand their knowledge in different areas. The Learning Gardens is a part of everyone’s family who attends this school, we take pride in knowing each family on an individual basis and I could not be prouder to be part of this team.

Woof!! My name is Knight!  I am a loyal, loving, friendly service dog for my human mom, Hope Ballentine.  I live with my mom, dad and two little human sisters.  My human sisters play and hang on me all the time.  I am very kid friendly.  If you are ever looking for me, I am in my mom’s office behind the big gate.  I love when the kiddos wave to me!  Please don’t be offended, but I stay by my mom at all times so I can make sure I do my job and keep her safe.  I look forward to your wave!  Woof!

P: 608-238-6700 x100


Mary Platt, Assistant Director – Family Services

Hello, TLG families! 

I have been with our school since August 2017.  I began my time here as a school support, moved into an infant classroom before making my way down to the office as school coordinator and finally, your assistant director of family services!  I truly look forward to every day I spend at our school – our staff, children and families make TLG a second home for me.  Before joining the Learning Gardens team, I graduated from Edgewood with a dual degree in Political Science and Sociology and worked as a nanny throughout college and as well as post-grad.  I have also previously night nannied and received my certification as a sleep trainer from the Family Sleep Institute in 2019.  I live in Madison with my husband, Rob and our cat, Rory.  In my spare time, I enjoy international travel (Antarctica is my last continent to claim!), hiking, black coffee, and listening to a good podcast while mowing my lawn.

P: 608-238-6700 x102



Dr. Rob San Juan, Assistant Director – Learning Development

Dr. Robert R. San Juan aka “Dr. Rob” earned a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from UW-Madison and has spent 20 years working as an early childhood development professional. His career in the early care and education field has given him the opportunity to work with young children in various contexts: classroom teacher, school enrichment programs, research, intervention programs, and preschool administrator. His work has emphasized helping children develop resilience through prosocial, adaptive, and self-regulated social skills as a means to positive and productive relationships with both peers and adults – balancing individual need with a strong sense of community.

While working in the early childhood field, Dr. Rob discovered one of his other passions: photography. He began taking pictures of the many moments that occurred between the adults and young children working together, and he really enjoyed capturing the stories told through the photographs. This led to an eventual career pivot as a lifestyle portrait, event, and commercial photographer in the Madison area. Although he continues to do photography work, Rob made his return to the early childhood field by joining the teaching staff at the Learning Gardens in early 2019, and then moving into his assistant director role in Spring 2020. Rob has enjoyed becoming part of the TLG’s family and contributing to the welcoming environment that encourages and nurtures children’s learning through social relationships with others.

P: (608) 238-6700 x119


Stephanie Gardner, Building Coordinator

Hello! My name is Stephanie. I’m the building coordinator at The Learning Gardens! I graduated from UW-Madison with my BA in History and Gender and Women’s Studies. I am currently pursing my MBA with a concentration in Human Resources. I live in Middleton with my boyfriend and our rescue dog, Stella. We enjoy getting out and enjoying everything our beautiful city has to offer. I started as a preschool teacher at TLG in 2017 and have transitioned to the building coordinator role. My favorite part of working at TLG is the amazing families I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and foster relationships with. I am passionate about early childhood education because I believe it builds the foundation for students’ future success.

P: (608) 238-6700 x101