Rebecca HardestyDSC_8087
Executive Director

Hello, my name is Rebecca Hardesty and I have been working with Smart StartCreative Learning Center since Newark opened in early 2010. I was introduced to Smart Start when my own son, Caleb, was 2 years old and attended the first Smart Start preschool.

I have been married to my husband Grant for 17 years and we are blessed with 3 children who keep us very busy. Caleb is 14, Connor is 13 and Olivia is 11.I have a Bachelor’s degree is Early Childhood Education and Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. I have had the opportunity to work in many diverse settings, including Belmont Hills Psychiatric Hospital, San Mateo County Youth Diversion program, and several youth and family service organizations. I have over 18 years experience including my current position as Director for the past 6 years, teaching preschool, and providing counseling services to children and their families. In addition, I spent several years teaching Parenting Classes working for the reputable organization “the Parent Project”. Weekends we spend most of our time attending all the sporting events our kids are involved in Soccer, Basketball, Cross Country, track etc., multiplied times 3 kids equals lots of running around from one thing to the next and traveling. I am incredibly grateful and thrilled to be involved with this program. Smart Start offers a unique learning environment that provides children opportunities to learn at their own pace in a joyful, fun and very creative environment. The teachers at Smart Start give 110% everyday and make sure each interaction with every child is meaningful. Smart Start staff challenge one another and your children to be the best they can be every day. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this exceptional program.

Olivia FerroDSC_8254

Hello, my name is Olivia Ferro and I am very excited to be a part of the Smart Start team. I was born and raised in Newark and now reside in Manteca with my family. I attended Ohlone College and recently transferred to Sacramento State where I am studying Sociology with a minor in Education, and I am also working on getting my teaching credentials. I was first introduced to Smart Start in 2018 when I started with an internship in high school then was hired in 2019 at the Newark location. I am very happy now to be working in Livermore in the Stingrays classroom. Some things that I really enjoy doing are traveling and hanging out with my family. I am very involved in my Portuguese community and have danced Portuguese folklore since the age of three. I look forward to meeting you all and am happy to be a part of the Smart Start Family.

Valerie ReedDSC_8185

Hello, my name is Valerie Reed and I have been working with children for more than 20 years. I worked at a home daycare for 4 years then school age for 12 and infants and toddlers for 3 years. I am now excited to be a part of the Smart Start program. I attended Los Medanos in Pittsburg and Diablo Valley in Pleasant Hill where I studied Child Development. During my free time, I really enjoy spending time with my family. I have a 22-year-old son Issac and a 7-year-old daughter named Rozy. We love doing crafts, reading, and going to the CV-Library. I currently reside in Castro Valley where I have lived for more than 18 years. I love living in Castro Valley due to its great family community and atmosphere. My passion for teaching and learning from the students is what brings me joy. Happy children are the children that love to learn, explore, and broaden their minds. I believe that all children are unique, precious and that, is why I am so lucky to be a part of the Smart Start Family.

Martha (Lupita) ZavalaDSC_8248

My name is Martha Zavala but everyone calls me Lupita. It’s been my nickname since I was little. I was raised in Oakland, CA and currently live in Livermore. I am studying sociology at Las Positas College. I enjoy going on hikes with my dog Nala or spend time with my big family. I’m family orientated and try to spend as much time as I can with them. I don’t have kids of my own but I have a niece and two nephews that mean the world to me. I enjoy working with kids, I’ve been working with children for five years ages 0-12 year olds. I’m happy to join Smart Start and look forward to meet you all.

Jessica MedinaDSC_8153

My name is Jessica Medina. I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I grew up in a big family and always enjoyed taking care of my twin sisters and relatives. I went to San Jose State University and earned many child development credits. I love working with children and being part of their development and growth. In my spare time, I enjoy being with my family and spending time with my princess daughter, Samantha. I am so looking forward for a new journey here at Smart Start and building new memories.

Jennifer GuevaraDSC_8245

Hello everyone, my name is Jennifer Guevara. I joined the Smart Start family just over a year ago. It has been such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing team. Coming to work every day and being in an active role in a child’s growth and development makes my job so rewarding. I attended San Jose State University and WestMed College in the Bay Area and have been working as an educator since 2005. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my 12-year-old son. We love to travel, go to the movies, attend sporting events and visit amusement parks. I enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking. I also am an active member of a women’s running group and have run in several 5k, 10k, and a half marathons.

Monique HarrisDSC_8180

Hello, my name is Monique Harris. I was born and raised in Hayward, CA and I moved to Manteca with my family in 2017. I am a graduate of Chabot College with an AA degree in Early Childhood Development. I also have 6 years of experience in a preschool classroom setting. I started working at Smart Start in late July 2021 and I love the children, families, and teachers I have met here. I love working with children and watching them grow and open up throughout the year. I look forward to meeting you all this school year and I am honored to be a part of the Smart Start team.

Kathryn St. PierreDSC_8257

Hello, my name is Kathryn, but some of my students call me Kat. I was born and raised in Ohio and briefly lived in New York and Boston before moving to California with my husband in 2003. I have a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from SFSU. I started attending Las Positas College in Spring 2018 to obtain my associate teaching certificate. I joined Smart Start in September 2018 as a substitute teacher, helping in all classrooms and recently became a permanent teacher for the Stingray’s classroom. I truly believe that education should be fun, creative, and meaningful and am very excited to be a part of the wonderful team at Smart Start Creative Learning Center.

Brianna ArriagaDSC_8164

Hello, my name is Brianna Arriaga. I’m so excited to be a part of the Smart Start team! I was born and raised in Hayward and I still currently live in Hayward. I’m attending Cal State East Bay pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts. My goal is to obtain my teaching credentials and teach at the elementary school level. I love working with children of all ages and working here has definitely confirmed that this is the field I want to pursue!


Hello I’m Alexsandra, but at Smart Start, I’m always hearing, “Ms. Sandra!” and that’s just the way I like it. I love being a teacher and I’ve always known I’d work with children. In 2015 I found myself in a classroom and never looked back. I’ve been taking classes and furthering my education through workshops and other outlets ever since. I recently obtained my AA in Early Childhood Development and will be working on obtaining my BA. Children learn through various methods Children are unique, so I enjoy creating activities that are playful, hands-on and expand the five major developmental domains in a unique way. This is why in 2019 I joined the Smart Start team because their school principles align with my own. I look forward to meeting you and getting to know your little one.

Maddie MaestrettiDSC_8219

Hello everyone, my name is Madeline Maestretti and I am so excited to be a teacher here at Smart Start! I was born and raised in Sacramento and recently moved to Livermore. I have been working with children for the past 6 years and have loved every minute of it. I am currently pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in special education. I look forward to meeting you all and making this a fun and exciting school year!

Kari HurschDSC_8219

Hello, my name is Kari Hasch. I have been teaching over 20 years. I have 2 children ages 16 and 13. I’m originally from Minnesota and went to college in Montana for Elementary Education. I’ve been living in California since 2002 and enjoy all the fun activities it has to offer. In my spare time, I enjoy camping, live music, thrifting and of course, spending time with my children. I started working at Smart Start in May 2022 and have enjoyed getting to know all the staff and families here. My goals as a teacher are to make sure each child knows they are capable and cared for. Watching them learn and discover is the best part of my day!

Starr TarranowskiDSC_8219

Hello there!
My name is Starley Taranowski but the little ones love to call me Miss.Starr! I’m very happy to be a part of the Smart Start team. I’m a teacher in the Tadpoles classroom working with our 18 months-2 year olds. I’ve been teaching and caring for kids for 2.5 years now and absolutely love every moment. I’m a student at the local college here in Livermore pursuing an Early Childhood Education degree. Everyday is a new experience to learn and grow and I’m grateful to be a part of your child’s day. I cherish all the bonds I get to build. The mind of a child is truly wonderful. Don’t hesitate to come say hi!

Debbie HaysDSC_8219

Hello, My name is Debbie. I have been teaching for over 30 years and recently joined Smart Start this year. I have a daughter who is 28 years old. We enjoy spending time together and love to go to the beach or lakes as much as possible. I am so happy to have joined the Smart Start family and look forward to many years here.

Amanda SchmitDSC_8219

Hello, My name is Ms. Amanda. I started in August, 2021 as the Kindergarten Teacher. I have spent over 20 years in education and love that no two days are the same! When I am not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my husband Johnathan and our 3 sons, Chance 20, Jayden 16 Nathan 15 and our dogs Wynstin, Stella and Fifi. I am thrilled to be a part of Smart Start school and look forward to meeting each and every one of you.