Meet our Team

Faculty & Staff

  • FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR

    William Harris

    Since 1995, William has been serving students challenged by disability ― first as a school-based Occupational Therapist followed by being a diagnostic evaluator for Orange County Public Schools. In 2000, he became the Director for Occupational and Physical Therapy Services. His primary responsibility was to coordinate therapy services throughout the district. In 2005, he left the district with a desire to return to direct treatment ― his greatest passion. After leaving the school system, William and his wife Andrea started Play Able Therapy services and worked primarily with children living with orthopedic and neurological disabilities. In 2009, they decided to open the Academy of Ability as part of Play Able Therapy to create an environment that would better impact the lives of the children. Their goal was to create a school that would have not only have academics as a focus, but to teach how to make life skills, which is an equally important aspect of education. In 2010, the Academy of Ability was reorganized as a not for profit charity to better meet the needs of the school. Since 2009, William has served as school director and board president. Letter from the founder

  • Founder and Administrator

    Andrea Harris

    Andrea Harris is the wife of William Harris and the co-founder  of the Academy of Ability.  Though continuously in the background, she has been the backbone of the success of this school.   She has her degree in Physical Therapy and  using this base of knowledge and her keen sense of administrative operations, she has contributed to the continued success of this special program.   She currently serves as administrator for all operations including budget, finance, human resources, and service coordination but she is far more than that.   Her tireless effort and perseverance sacrificing family time and personal pursuits has ensured the success and sustained operation of this wonderful unique program, and without her support and inspiration the program would never have come into existence.   She lights up any room she enters with an unmatched joyous spirit, invigorating the people around her especially the amazing kids with whom we work.   She is truly the wind beneath William’s wings providing the type of love and encouragement that allowed him to not only imagine but develop all aspects of this specialized school.  Words fail to explain adequately how her belief in him inspired his confidence and made it possible for his vision and his work to become a reality .

  • Lead Educator, Advanced Studies

    Bev Downward

    Bev has been teaching at The Academy of Ability since 2014. She is a Florida certified educator with over 30 years of experience teaching in addition to educational leadership experience. She focuses on encouraging and challenging students at all levels in life to meet their full God given potential. She has enjoyed every year at the Academy because she loves being a part of the lives of the students who attend. She says her students teach her lessons each day about perseverance and making the most of each day.

  • Language Arts

    Lymari Rentas

    Lymari holds a bachelors degree in Human Resources but also completed nearly all course work for a degree in education.  Prior to coming The Academy of Ability in 2012 she had previous experience in teaching, including experience with her son who also attends the school. As the Academic Team Leader, she uses her education and extensive personal knowledge of the needs of our special population,  to identify and coordinate the most appropriate and effective academic content for language arts, math, and subject studies.   She feels very fortunate to be a part of their lives as well as having the students in hers. As a parent, she found that The Academy of Ability offers a caring and loving environment that seeks to meet all needs but also persists in helping each student develop their fullest potential and helping them reach independence.  She is bilingual which helps with education for children whose home language is not primarily English. 

  • Math

    Evelyn Cooper

    Evelyn has worked at the Academy of Ability since 2011 when she started as a part time paraprofessional.  She served in that capacity until 2015-2016 school year when she came on full time.  She continued as a paraprofessional until 2017-18 when she became a class instructor.  She provides the instruction based upon lesson plans developed by the academic team for the area of mathematics.  Though she did not have experience with children with disabilities prior to 2011.  She immediately fell in love with the students and the environment.  Through her care and dedication,  Evelyn provides an easy learning experience for all her students and can elicit answers from them that could not have been achieved without her continuous encouragement.  She feels privileged to be here, working with this population, but the truth is that this school is lucky to have her.  Evelyn goes above and beyond and enjoys watching each student make progress in their journey towards independence.

  • Lead Educator, Differentiated Curriculum

    Rachel Minnear

    We are so happy to welcome Rachael to the Academy of Ability in 2020.  She comes to us from Orange County Schools where she served as an Exceptional Education Teacher for children with profound delays.    She earned a Bachelor Degree in Science in Education from UCF in 2017 and hit the ground running, earning teacher of the year at Colonial High School only two years after starting her teaching career.

    She is a natural fit for our program because she believes in the students we serve and strives to maximize each students learning through  multifaceted instruction which incorporates sensory techniques, cognitive approaches, play, and purposeful engagement.  This fosters optimum engagement in each learning activity offered in the curriculum. At the AoA, she will plan the curriculum, select reinforcing activities, and help coordinate its implementation along with the other teachers and support staff.

  • Teacher Assistant

    Emmanuel Sannon

    Emmanuel Sanon has been with the Academy of Ability since 2012.  He started in transportation during which time he spent mid-days ,between driving shifts, facilitating his two children’s education through home schooling.  Each has subsequently graduated.  Since 2015, he also has served as  paraprofessional support, implementing education in the area of subject studies through lesson plans developed by the Academic Lead teachers.  Between 2016-2018, he has been the high school equivalency skills facilitator to students capable of academic work at HS equivalency levels.  In 2018-2019, his is the class instructor for subject studies providing science and social studies content to children at many levels of academic performance. For 2019-2020,  Emmanuel is assisting in the physical skills class, helping children participate in gross movement exercises and other motor skills development.

  • Care and Support, Academic Team

    Marta Padua

  • Care and Support, Life Skills Team

    Traci Dike