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!


Elaine FonsecaDSC_8115

My name is Elaine Fonseca and I am so happy and excited to be back teaching at Smart Start Creative Learning Center. I was with Smart Start from 2014-2017 in the Discoverers class and just recently returned in October 2021 in the Imagineers class. I was born and raised in Fremont, CA currently living in Newark. I am blessed with two amazing boys, MJ (12) and Isaiah (10) who keep me very busy with their school activities and sports, especially baseball. My passion is working with young children to help them learn and grow and to have lots of fun in the process. I have my Early Childhood Education certificate and continue to work toward my bachelor’s degree. I love all things outdoors, camping, barbecues and sports. Also, family is very important to me and I am very blessed to have a close family who all live nearby so I enjoy spending that quality time with them. I am very excited to be part of the Smart Start team and look forward to meeting all of you.  


Andrea MendozaDSC_8073

My name is Andrea Mendoza, This is my 3rd year being part of this wonderful Smart Start team!
I enjoy coming into work everyday and making a difference in each child’s life. I graduated from Heald College in Medical Office Administration. I first came into Smart Start as an aid and to help around the school. The whole team welcomed me and encouraged me to keep going and finish my Early Childhood Studies to become a full time teacher. I couldn’t be happier working with this positive and loving environment.
A little more about myself, I was born and raised in Hayward but moved to Oceanside in 2008. I’ve been married since 2010 and my husband was in the military for 7 years. We were moved a lot and lived in Oceanside, South Carolina and Pennsylvania but after he got out of the service, we decided to make California our permanent home. We do not have any children but we do have a 5 year old English Bulldog. I enjoy spending time with my family & friends, traveling, and watching football. I am excited to be a part of this wonderful school and build a relationship with the children and families!


Norma VazquezDSC_8009

Hello, my name is Norma Vazquez and I have been working with young children since 2004. I joined Smart Start Learning Center in January 2018 as a substitute teacher, helping  in all the classrooms. I recently became a permanent teacher and I am very happy to be part of this great school. I currently hold an AA degree in ECE studies and a teacher permit from the CTC. In addition, as a way to keep my knowledge fresh and learn new tips and ideas, I enroll myself in ECE workshops through 4C’s and Child Care links. In the future, (hopefully soon) it is my dream to continue my education to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. I was born in Mexico but I came to this country many years back and since then, I have lived in Redwood City, Hayward and I now reside in Newark. I am married and have two children. In my spare time I enjoy reading, cooking, exercising and taking walks with my family and my French bulldog, Lucy.


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.


Rosa OrtegaDSC_8104

Hello, I’m Ms. Rosa and I am a new teacher here at Smart Start. I am currently in the Explorers class. I have been working with children for the past few years. In the past, I have worked at Ascend Little Miracles Preschool in Hayward. At Ascend, I worked with children that have special needs or have been diagnosed to be on the Autism Spectrum. I also worked for the San Francisco Unified School District as a paraprofessional. I also have my certificate as a medical assistant. I was born in San Francisco, but was raised in Pittsburg, Ca. I have lived in the East Bay now for 18 years. I am a mother of three children. My son Dantae is 19yrs old and my two daughters Angelina 17yrs old & Thalia 7yrs old. . My family also has a dog, Kuma.I enjoy crafting & baking in my free time. I truly enjoy working with kids and looking forward to meeting you all and working with your children. I am honored to be working for Smart Start and with all the great staff.


Ms. BeccaMs. Becca

Hello, My name is Rebecca Shelley. I graduated high school in 2019. After High school I took Early Childhood Education classes at Chabot College & online thru Theoria Technical Institute. I have since obtained my Teaching Permit and have started substitute teaching at Smart Start. I enjoy working with your children and seeing their smiling faces everytime I come to work. I plan to continue my education and become a full time teacher and possibly a school counselor. My other interests include: being the Varsity Cheer Coach at Kennedy High School, going camping and going to amusement parks.