Co-Founder and Executive Director
Lisa Johnson is the co-founder and executive director of BRIGHTLinks. She is a two time graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelors of Arts and concentrations in Therapeutic Recreation and Dental Hygiene. Although she has worked six years in adolescent and adult inpatient and outpatient psychiatric and substance abuse at Duke University Hospital and eight years as a Dental Hygienist in periodontics, she feels her greatest accomplishments are as a wife and a mother to two beautiful, profoundly gifted (PG) children who both thrive through homeschooling.
Through her experiences working as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and her own family’s experience within traditional schooling, Lisa recognized the academic, intellectual, social, and emotional needs of highly and profoundly gifted (HG/PG) children go largely unmet by traditional schools. In these restrictive environments, HG/PG students are often limited by or even punished for their asynchronous development, inquisitiveness, intensity or sensitivity, and overdeveloped sense of justice. Few teachers or schools understand these children, and fewer still have resources to meet their needs. HG/PG students struggle to connect with their same age mates as the intellectual, social, and emotional gaps between them seem too great to overcome. These unmet needs can lead to loneliness, depression, anxiety, underachievement, and school failure.
Lisa co-founded BRIGHTLinks to address these intellectual and emotional needs of HG/PG students and their families, recognizing that typical alternative learning opportunities were not enough. She envisioned creating opportunities for connection and camaraderie for this population through alternative learning pathways that meet their exceptional intellectual potential. As director of BRIGHTLinks, she continues to create alternative educational opportunities for the social and emotional well-being of HG/PG students and their families, as well as facilitate opportunities for connection within a supportive community.
Co-Founder and Director
Allison Coates is the co-founder and lead instructor for BRIGHTLinks. Allison has been a contributor to school reform in mathematics for more than 2 decades. Her own experiences as a student at MIT and UC Berkeley and her experiences as an instructor in K-12 and college classrooms taught her that high-achieving and gifted students are not challenged early enough in their academic careers, often leading to boredom, underachievement, and unhappiness.
After starting her own family, Allison turned her attention to the problem of “fuzzy math” in K-12 schools. Concerned by the weakness of mathematics programs, Allison founded the Math Walk
Institute (previously Middle School Mathematics Institute) in St. Paul, MN a non-profit corporation whose mission was to help parents, teachers, and schools ensure their students succeed at algebra. Working primarily with private, parochial, and charter schools, as well as homeschooling parents, she worked to improve elementary and middle school mathematics programs by teaching math to teachers and parents, helping schools design high-quality, challenging math courses, and leading pull-out gifted programs for talented mathematics students. Allison then worked as part of the author team for Singapore Math Inc.’s Dimensions math curriculum.
Increasingly aware that schools could not meet either the intellectual or emotional needs of highly and profoundly gifted (HG/PG)students, Allison co-founded BRIGHTLinks with Lisa Johnson to provide a community for HG/PG students to grow. Allison’s role as lead instructor is to provide highly-accelerated academic and intellectual opportunities to HG/PG students in a setting that is appropriate for their level of executive function and emotional maturity. She has an S.B. in mathematics from MIT, and a Master's in computer science from UC Berkeley. She and her husband homeschool their children in Raleigh, NC.
Director and Founding Member
Ms. Reder is a wife and mother to four energetic and delightful sons. Her family joined the BRIGHTLinks community in 2018 and benefits from the many opportunities provided. She sees first-hand how a peer group from the BL community helps her own children to flourish in confidence and connection. In this way, she desires to encourage all families that are struggling to seek and find connection. She enjoys engaging with children in the classroom and helping them to find their educational “a-ha” moments. She currently homeschools her children. She holds a B.A. in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in developmental biology from Washington University in St. Louis.