Sisters, Cheri and Jana Johnson have a passion for helping others improve their academic and social success.
Cheri is an occupational therapist with 35 years of experience in the education field, about 26 of those she spent at Central Valley School District. Cheri also has 16 years of experience using balance/auditory/vision exercises.
Jana is a teacher with over 33 years of administrative experience along with 10 years of teaching prekindergarten-12th grade and college, curriculum creation, and teaching English as a second language. Jana learned about the Bal-A-Vis-X program from her sister and the two joined forces to open Highbridge Learning Center in 2021.
Highbridge Learning Center features a unique learning model that includes individualized learning plans, and brain and body techniques for optimum academic, social and behavioral success.
The Johnsons use a series of balance/auditory/vision exercises of varying complexity, as known as Bal-A-Vis-X. Created by Bill Hubert, the Bal-A-Vis-X program focuses on integrating the brain and body through repetitive, patterned, and predictable exercise. This process helps develop new neural pathways – empowering children to be able to process what they are being asked to learn all while maintaining an emotional state of wellbeing.
Cheri said being able to utilize the program with both special education youth, as well as the higher education students that are at risk of falling through the gaps, has really helped optimize learning.
“Our program started out as an after-school program that was linked with health and fitness. Quickly we expanded to also offering programs before school. Next thing we knew, students actually started bringing friends they thought would benefit from the program,” Cheri said. “It just blossomed.”
The learning center is for children from kindergarten through 5th grade. Work focuses on life skills and core academics, as well as preparations for standardized testing. They’re currently in the process of becoming a recognized private school for the upcoming school year. The school could hold up to 30 students ranging from prekindergarten to 5th grade.
Highbridge Learning Center is currently developing their grounds to be accessible for students to use for play. The plan is to add a garden, track, gym, and a sensory playground.
A sensory playground uses equipment and activities to stimulate the senses such as touch, smell, and sight. The Johnsons enlisted the help of Katie Getman, Owner of Katie Getman Designs, to design the playground.
“I met Katie at the East Valley Networking Group through the Valley Chamber,” Cheri said. “Katie has been helping us with the playground, and she got us connected with PlayCreation who designs and installs playground equipment. They have both been phenomenal to work with.”
When Katie first met with Cheri and Jana, she did a consultation with them for designing the inside of the learning center. During the visit, Katie learned what they wanted to do for the outside area as well.
“I don’t normally do outside landscaped design, but I was able to utilize a lot of my design and project management skills and apply similar concepts to their space,” Katie said. “We came up with a design that mimics nature. We all agreed that it’s so important for kids who have a high sensory need to connect with nature.”
Cheri said they hope to have the playground done by September, just in time for the start of the school year. “All we have left to do is fundraise,” Cheri said.
The Johnsons have more plans to expand the school into a preschool and elementary school in the years to follow.
“We are really focused on the students’ wellbeing and giving them all the tools possible, they need for success in the future,” Jana said. “I think that’s what makes us stand out and really gives us an edge.”