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 started Play Able Therapy services and worked primarily with children living with orthopedic and neurological disabilities. In 2009, he founded the Academy of Ability as part of Play Able Therapy to create an environment that would better impact the lives of the children. His 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

  • Physical Life Skills and Life Skills Curriculum Coordinator

    Amanda Riker

    Amanda graduated from UCF with a degree in Exercise Science and a specialization in human performance. She has been working with The Academy of Ability since November 2014 and loves being a part of the team.  Her primary  responsibility is in developing the physical and academic life skills component of our curriculum and she serves as assistant to the director.

    She has a passion for the kids she serves at The Academy of Ability which drives her to search endlessly for intervention and curriculum to meet the complex physical needs of our students.   This passion has burned only hotter after the birth of her niece who also has cerebral palsy.  This dedication has given rise to a complete life skills program to ensure that here at The Academy of Ability the kids are LIVING and learning.  She is an major asset to our staff.

  • Advanced Academics and Academic Resource Teacher

    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.

  • Academic Life Skills

    Daniella Harris

    Daniella has been volunteering at The Academy of Ability since it opened. She was first hired as a teacher assistant for language arts and math in September 2017.  Shortly thereafter she was made the creative arts instructor which culminated in the incredibly successful production of  “The AoA’s Got Talent”  in May 2018.   She is now the class instructor for Academic Life Skills and an integral member of the Life Skills team. 

    Daniella is currently studying at Seminole State college.  She loves helping the kids make progress whether it be academic, artistic, or physical.   She feels that it is important to encourage each student in every aspect that may contribute to a more involved and independent life. She is excited for what the future may hold for the students as they continue at The Academy of Ability.

  • Subject Studies

    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.

  • Care and Support, Academic Team

    Marta Padua

  • Care and Support, Life Skills Team

    Traci Dike