Marco Island Academy has struggled to find its long-term leader for activities and athletics since Roger Raymond stepped away from the position in 2015.
The Manta Rays have employed two athletics/activities directors since, giving the position a bit of a revolving door feel to it.
Enter Ryan Marie Roberts, a true go-getter with an extensive background in a variety of areas.
“We were kind of looking for the full package,” principal Melissa Scott said. “We’ve had a lot of turnover in that position, and some of that was out of our control. When I saw her resume, I knew right away she was a person I wanted to interview. She’s got that ability to handle so many things at once, and at a charter school you need someone like that.”
Roberts, 33, has worked in the Collier County School District since 2011, teaching a number of subjects and coaching a few different sports along the way. She started at Golden Gate for year, teaching AP government and economics courses while also serving as a student government adviser. From there, she went to Everglades City for two years, instructing sixth-graders and high schoolers alike while also coaching girls basketball and softball. In 2014, she guided the Gators to their first softball district title in 30 years.
From there, she went to Lely, where she’s spent the last four years and again gotten heavily involved in multiple aspects of student life. She served as assistant athletic director to Bill Mottola the last three years, also serving as the junior class sponsor where she helped raise funds for the prom. In addition to teaching AP psychology and sociology, she started a law class and guided a mock trial club that placed top three in the state in each of the last three years. She’s also coached softball, swimming and cheerleading while at Lely.
“She’s done every aspect you need to be successful at this job,” Mottola said. “She’s coached a number of different sports at a number of different schools. But her experience goes far beyond sports with what she’s done with student government, raising funds for the prom, mock trial, national honor society. She’s been involved in so many things, which has prepared her for this moment. She was my right-hand man when she was here, and I can tell you she’s going to be very hard to replace.”
Mottola says Roberts’ ability to handle a number of jobs at once will serve her well in her new gig.
“She’s incredibly organized, a great multi-tasker,” he said. “She’s been a high-performing teacher at Lely and at other schools, all while helping out with all this extracurricular stuff as well. In athletics, that ability to be organized is key, since there’s always a bunch of different situations going on at once. Everything she’s done up until this point has gotten her ready for this point. Marco Island’s getting a great one.”
Marco Island Academy has struggled gaining its athletic footing since starting the program in 2011. The Manta Rays have experienced difficulty keeping coaches around long-term, and they’ve also had problems raising funds for sports teams. Roberts hopes to change all that.
“We need to step our game up fund raising, and that will be a big focus I have going forward,” Roberts, 33, said. “I want to see us in a few years being competitive in some of our sports against the big schools like Naples, Barron Collier and Gulf Coast. We also want to have our own facilities in two to three years, instead of having to use other places around town. It would be nice to get out of school one day and see the kids getting ready for their (afterschool events), to have home games that actually feel like home games. Having a Senior Night that actually feels like a Senior Night. All of that is very important to me and part of my long-term vision for our program.”
Hiring the right coaches to help implement that vision is also of the utmost importance. Right now, Roberts is looking to fill the head cheerleading, girls basketball and football special teams coaching positions.
“It’s no secret, we’ve had a high turnover of coaches, especially in football, although we believe we’ve got the right person (Bill Cranston) now to lead us forward,” Roberts said. “We want our coaches to show the kids this is the time to buy in to our program. We’ve got the support system in place to help you become a better player, but more importantly a better person. Because in the long run, we’re not just coaching to win championships. We’re developing work ethics, putting that foundation in place for our kids to be stand-up, good people that then become productive members of their community. That’s what we want above all else.”
A native of Troy, New York, Roberts played several sports as a youth, including gymnastics, soccer, volleyball and swimming. She was a standout softball player, competing on elite travel squads throughout high school. She attended Russell Sage College in Troy, where she briefly played softball but soon discovered her passion for student government and leadership. She served as the social vice president, vice president and ascended to the student body president as a senior. She graduated in 2006 with a degree in history, also receiving her Master’s degree there in 2008 in secondary education-social studies.
“From day one, this hasn’t been a hard transition at all, because Ryan’s top priority is the kids,” Scott said. “We felt like we needed stability and a person that comes in and does what they say they’re going to do and in the short period of time she’s been here, we’re already seeing that. It’s hard work to structure a successful program around academics, and you’ve got to really want to put in that hard work, but I truly believe Ryan is that person who is going to make this place as amazing as it should be for our kids.”