Dr. Dustine Rey is the founder and Executive Director of The Gratitude Garden Preschool and co-founder of TESLA Country Day. Both schools are committed to nurturing curiosity and creativity through balancing innovative STEM curricula, artistic expression, entrepreneurship, leadership, and emotional well-being. Over the past twenty-five years, Dr. Rey has worked in multiple facets of education; from teaching preschool to graduate students, to school counseling and administration, and most recently educational entrepreneurship. She attributes becoming an entrepreneur to her own search for an innovative education for her daughter.

Dr. Rey holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California where she completed a higher education teaching fellowship in the Rossier School of Education. She earned her Master of Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Pepperdine University, a Bachelors of Science in Clinical Psychology from San Jose State University, a California Teaching Credential, and a California Child Development Program Director Permit. Dr. Rey presents at various conferences and workshops on the topics of emotional well-being, human development, and educational leadership.

Currently, Dr. Rey is an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University and conducting research in the measurement of pro-social behaviors among young children and the development of a pro-social curriculum for children ages 4-7. Her dynamic and dedicated approach has garnered her a reputation as a significant leader in both early childhood education and higher education. In 2013, San Diego Magazine nominated her for “Women of the Year” for her service to the community and education.

“I feel blessed each day to be a mother and an educator. I am grateful to be part of a community that helps me to grow and that through my work I can help others to grow and thrive. My family, health, animals, and nature continue to inspire me and for that support, I am always in awe.” ~Dr. Rey

Mr. Kuzcynski was drawn to education upon graduating from the University of Washington and began practicing and teaching engineering design and analysis principles at the General Motors Advanced Engineering Center in Michigan. His STEM experience broadened as a Registered Patent Attorney at Rader, Fishman & Grauer PLLC before the United States Patent and Trademark Office where he prepared and prosecuted U.S. and PCT patent applications in various technical arts. He holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Engineering, a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA), and a Juris Doctorate (JD).

He brings his scientific, financial, legal, and business background to strengthen and broaden the STEM educational offerings of the school.

“My vision is to create a thriving educational experience by providing a safe and purposeful home away from home for children and their parents.” ~Mr. Kuzcynski

Ms. Kimberly Batayola was born and raised in Washington state. In 2003, she moved to California to attend Dominican University of California. In 2010, she was hired on as an Early Childhood Educator, working with children 6 weeks to 12 years of age. During the following 2 years, she enrolled in a graduate program with Central Michigan University at their satellite campus on Camp Pendleton. Ms. Batayola holds an Associate in Child and Adolescent Development, Bachelors in Psychology and Master of Education.

Since working in Child Development Centers, Ms. Batayola has achieved accreditation for each respective program from National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA), Council on Accreditation (COA), and Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA). As the designated safety officer, she also obtained National Program for Playground Safety Inspector certification.

During her years working with military children, Ms. Batayola found her inspiration from resources that build social-emotional skills, and resiliency. Every up and down is an opportunity for growth. Ms. Batayola thrives on research and on-going learning, specifically from Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and programs like Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS), Kids Include Together (KIT) and First 5.

Ms. Batayola volunteers with many family-focused organizations like Shorin Ryu Karate Camp Pendleton, Noble Path Foundation, Promise 4 Paws, Splash Foundation and her church’s youth programs. She has one son, Andrew, and their dog, Bleu. They love the outdoor sports, and volunteer with a local rescue to foster dogs.

“I am thankful for the process and experiences of my life, as well as those of the souls I connect with. With every pit, there is a peak, and it is a blessing to watch a young human experience the process of life.”
~ Ms. Batayola

Mrs. Sarah Curtiss is a Gratitude Garden parent. Her eldest child attended our preschool for two years, and her youngest child recently began. Originally from Ohio, Sarah received her Bachelors Degree from Ohio University in Early Childhood Education as well as her Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Cincinnati.

Sarah moved to New York City after college where she was a transitional kindergarten teacher and private tutor. After two years at the school, Sarah was promoted to the position of Education Director. In this role, she supported the school by working directly with the teachers to provide curriculum refinement utilizing her knowledge of the most developmentally appropriate and current teaching practices in early childhood education.

Sarah and her husband moved to Orange County in 2013 and they started their family on the “best” coast. She continued to teach in her most fulfilling role yet as a stay at home mother for the past 5 years. As a mother, Sarah strives to create meaningful and impactful experiences for her children. She believes the greatest teacher is the one who allows the individual child the ability to direct their own learning by actively supporting their curiosity while they are “messily” experimenting and discovering all about the world around them.

In her free time, Sarah can be found at the beach with her family. She also enjoys working out, going out to eat with friends, and traveling.

“I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to fall in love with this school community as a parent of a preschool student. I always felt that the Gratitude Garden was an extension of my family as I entrusted them with every fiber of my being to care for, love, and teach my child. I feel very blessed to continue growing with this school as a part of this beautiful staff family.” ~ Mrs. Curtiss