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


Dr. Rob San Juan, Assistant Director

Dr. Robert R. San Juan aka “Dr. Rob” earned a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from UW-Madison and has spent 25 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


Wendy Currie, School Coordinator

Hello, my name is Wendy Currie.  I’ve been with The Learning Gardens since June 2015.  I had taken a small break but I’m back for good.  I’m married to my amazing husband, Scott, for 24 years.  We have 2 grown boys.  Kyle, who is going on 20, is also known as the Dragon Master.  He has complete knowledge of red dragons.  This man has helped mold me into the teacher I am today.  Next, we have Austin who graduates this year.  His next adventure is with the US Airforce where he has signed up for a 6-year enlistment.  We are very proud of him.

I started in this field just on a part-time basis to earn a little extra money while I was home with our boys.  I had no idea this career would become my passion.  I’ve worn many hats through the years.  I’ve worked with many age groups but have spent most of my time with one-year olds and 4K.  Each age group has touched my heart; the one-year olds because of the many milestones in their development and the 4-5s for their energy for learning and excitement to be heading off to the big school for Kindergarten.  These marvels keep me so young.  I can’t image spending my days any other place than this school.

P: (608) 238-6700 x101

Caylyn Huffer-Kiesow, Administrative Assistant and Building Support

Hello! I went to MATC for Liberal Arts, with a focus on dance and childcare. I have been working with children since I started babysitting as a teen. I have over ten years of experience working in child care centers, mainly with infants and toddlers. In addition, I have spent time instructing children of all age groups in dance, physical education, and swimming, as well as time as a lifeguard at Oregon Pool.  I took some time away from the early care and education field in the banking world, but during that time  I realized that my true passion was working with children. As I worked myself back into the child care field, I eventually found my home at The Learning Gardens where I’ve worked since 2016. In my spare time when it’s nice outside you can find me kayaking, camping, biking or dancing with my friends. In the colder months I love to snuggle with my kitties and read great books in front of the fireplace.

P: (608) 238-6700 x101