Rebecca HardestyDSC_8087
Executive Director

Hello, my name is Rebecca Hardesty and I have been working with Smart Start Creative 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.

Gina Shelley Gina

Hello, My name is Gina Shelley and I’m so honored to be a part of the Smart Start family. I personally have over 18 years experience in this field from parenting, coaching, teaching, running a home daycare, and now as a center Director. I was born and raised in the bay area, Fremont to be exact. 21 years ago, I married my highschool sweetheart. We have been blessed with 3 amazing children. Rebecca is 18, Sierra is 16, and our son Brendan is 10. Outside of work I am very involved in my children’s schools, PTA, sports leagues, and Girl Scouts. I am also very involved in my community and I’m a member of the Fremont Elks Lodge. My family enjoys the outdoors, so we do a lot of camping. We’re also Disney fanatics! As if that’s not enough my children and I are performers, we all enjoy singing for fun and competitively. I am excited to work here at Smart Start with such a great team of teachers!

Andrea MendozaDSC_8073

Hello, my name is Andrea Mendoza. I come from parents who migrated from Peru and I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I attended Ohlone for Early Childhood Development. I am happy to be a part of the Smart Start since October 2012. I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, traveling, reading, attending music and sports events. I am grateful to be a part of this community and enjoy welcoming all who are a part of our Smart Start Family!

Perla Chavez GonzalezDSC_8104

Hello my name is Perla Chavez, and I have the great pleasure to have started working at Smart Start on February 2019. I am extremely happy to have joined the Smart Start team. I am currently finishing up my credits for my associate’s degree in child development at Ohlone college. I love working with children and have done so since a very young age. I’ve always have had a passion for teaching and I am so thankful to have been given this opportunity. I was born in Mexico and lived there until I moved to Newark in 2002 and have lived here ever since. I’ve been married since 2016 and love to travel. I enjoy watching movies and listening to music. Family is very important to me and I hope to one day have children of my own. I hope to gain as much as experience as I can and to make a difference in your children’s lives.

Carmen Franco AyalaDSC_8104

Hello, my name is Carmen. I got my preschool teacher diploma from American College of Early Childhood Education in San Francisco, California. I earned my Early Childhood Education units from Chabot College. I have been working with children for 18 years. On weekends, I like to walk with my husband and dog.

Destiny WilliamsonDSC_8104

Hello my name is Destiny Williamson and I am excited to be a teacher at Smart Start. I’ve been working with children since the age of 15 due to my mom owning her own daycare. I am a senior at Cal State East Bay University. I am double majoring in Criminal Justice and Early Childhood Education. I am so happy to have joined this wonderful team of teachers at Smart Start. I am 22 years old, from Los Angeles Ca and came to the Bay Area for college. I am now located in Hayward and have a dog named Willow. She is a toy poodle and very loving. I look forward to meeting all of the beautiful children that attend Smart Start.

Valeria DominguezDSC_8104

Hello my name is Valeria Dominguez and I’m so excited to be part of the Smart Start team. I was born and raised here in the Bay Area and lived in Texas for the past two years helping raise my niece. I was introduced to Smart Start in 2019 with an internship in high school. This is where I found a passion to work with children and fell in love with this center. Since then I have been babysitting and volunteering at different schools. I graduated Ohlone College in 2021 and transferred to San Francisco State where I am studying Sociology with a minor in Education. During my free time I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family. I look forward to meeting you all and am happy to be a part of the Smart Start Family.

Lisa BurkhalterDSC_8104

I was born and raised in Redwood City, California. I attended Canada College where I earned an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. I began my career in this field in 1996. I am happy to be at Smart Start Creative Learning Center.

I have four children of my own and moved to Fremont in 2009. I enjoy camping and hiking with my family. On the weekends I can often be found playing with my craft supplies. I also love music and dancing.