Our Leadership Team

Ryan Van Alfen

Ryan Van Alfen
Cofounder
Athlos Academies

The idea behind Athlos Academies began after co-founders Ryan Van Alfen and Jason Kotter became impressed by the idea of parental choice in education and recognized other needs within the education system, including developing the whole child beyond academics alone.  To succeed in life, students need more than just book smarts, and Van Alfen and Kotter wanted to make a social impact.

“In an era of emphasis on common standards and standardized testing, core subject areas can become the sole focus of a child’s daily instruction. However, students also need instruction in social-emotional learning. Are these things typically measured on a standardized test? No, but like academic knowledge they are critical to a child’s future success and should not be overlooked.”

Entrepreneurs in their own right, the two founders always chalked up their success to life lessons: integrity, hard work, service, and healthy choices.  In examining their own childhood experiences, they realized many of the most influential lessons they learned were not taught in a typical classroom lesson. Often, they were experiences in an extracurricular or sports setting that required development of leadership skills, grit, or social intelligence. They were fortunate enough to have families and coaches that helped them see the relevancy in these experiences and develop their character. However, Performance Character traits are not always taught in the home and very rarely in the classroom.

“Children are no longer defined by how they perform in the classroom. It’s how can they perform in life? How are they going to deal with the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them?

~ Ryan Van Alfen

A concept began to take shape. Consulting with education experts, fitness specialists, and social emotional thought leaders, a new school model was born—Athlos.  Athlos, derived from the Greek word for “feat” or “contest,” revived the classical ideal of balance—balance of mind, body, and character.

Jason Kotter

Jason Kotter
Cofounder
Athlos Academies

The idea behind Athlos Academies began after co-founders Ryan Van Alfen and Jason Kotter became impressed by the idea of parental choice in education and recognized other needs within the education system, including developing the whole child beyond academics alone.  To succeed in life, students need more than just book smarts, and Van Alfen and Kotter wanted to make a social impact.

“In an era of emphasis on common standards and standardized testing, core subject areas can become the sole focus of a child’s daily instruction. However, students also need instruction in social-emotional learning. Are these things typically measured on a standardized test? No, but like academic knowledge they are critical to a child’s future success and should not be overlooked.”

Entrepreneurs in their own right, the two founders always chalked up their success to life lessons: integrity, hard work, service, and healthy choices.  In examining their own childhood experiences, they realized many of the most influential lessons they learned were not taught in a typical classroom lesson. Often, they were experiences in an extracurricular or sports setting that required development of leadership skills, grit, or social intelligence. They were fortunate enough to have families and coaches that helped them see the relevancy in these experiences and develop their character. However, Performance Character traits are not always taught in the home and very rarely in the classroom.

“Children are no longer defined by how they perform in the classroom. It’s how can they perform in life? How are they going to deal with the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them?

~ Ryan Van Alfen

A concept began to take shape. Consulting with education experts, fitness specialists, and social emotional thought leaders, a new school model was born—Athlos.  Athlos, derived from the Greek word for “feat” or “contest,” revived the classical ideal of balance—balance of mind, body, and character.

Bill Bressler

Dr. William Bressler, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Athlos Academies

Dr. Bressler has more than twenty years of PK-12 education administration experience. He is known for his transformational leadership approach, helping develop others and effectively managing, guiding, and motivating groups to create, implement and execute innovative strategies and structures.

Dr. Bressler started his career in education as a high school guidance counselor. Later, serving as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, superintendent, chief academic officer, and executive director.

Dr. Bressler earned his doctorate in education leadership and management from Capella University, his master’s degree in education administration and supervision from Arizona State University, and his bachelor’s in social work from Arizona State University. He is also a state-certified superintendent and principal.

Our Operations Team

Nikki Joseph-Bailey

Nikki Joseph-Bailey
Operations Director
Athlos Academies

Nikki Joseph-Bailey serves as the School Operations Director for Athlos Academies. Joseph-Bailey received her bachelor’s degree from the University of New Orleans with a concentration in Business Marketing, and minors in Finance and Business Management. Joseph-Bailey has served in education over the past ten years in various roles; Assistant Technology Director, Middle School Science Teacher, and most recently as a Director of School Operations. Joseph-Bailey has found great success in managing school site operations and finances. She currently utilizes her work experience to help develop continuous process improvement in school compliance and Human Resources policies.

Juliana Giovannini

Juliana Giovannini
Student Information System Manager
Athlos Academies

Juliana Giovannini has worked at Athlos Academies since 2015.  She was hired as a Research Assistant on the School Launch Team in the year prior to the opening of Athlos Academy of St. Cloud and Athlos Academy of Utah.  Her responsibilities included researching and writing school board policies and creating the Family Handbook.  By the time the schools opened in 2016, her role evolved into the School Launch Specialist where she took on managing the student enrollment process.  In 2018, her role again transitioned, this time into the Student Information System (SIS) Administrator just in time for launching Athlos Academy of Jefferson Parish.  Her responsibilities grew to include managing each school’s SIS and state reporting of student data.  She has enjoyed being a part of a start-up educational venture and witnessing the changes that each school has experienced over the years.

Sarah DiSimone

Sarah DiSimone
School Operations Specialist
Athlos Academies

Sarah DiSimone is the School Operations Specialist at Athlos Academies. DiSimone has a Bachelor’s Degree from SUNY Empire State College in Business Management, Economics, and Finance, specializing in Business Management. DiSimone has worked for a business accelerator for over five years as an Associate Project Manager. She then moved on to specialize in Office Management and Human Resources for the past few years. DiSimone uses this background to successfully recruit and coordinate on and off boarding for school employees, as well as assist in other operation projects.

Our Finance Team

Thomas Bickart

Thomas Bickart
Chief Financial Officer
Athlos Academies

Thomas Bickart is an accomplished executive, strategist, mentor, communicator, team builder and problem solver. With over twenty years of financial and operational experience in private, public and non-profit organizations in the education, technology, hospitality and business services sectors. He has led turnaround and growth at several organizations, including National American University, Edison Learning, Inc,, TCI College of Technology, and others. Bickart holds an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University and a B.A. from De Paul University.

Mark Hale

Mark Hale
School Finance Manager
Athlos Academies

Mark Hale has a BA in Accounting from Brigham Young University.  He grew up in Atlanta, GA.  As an adult, he lived in Utah, Texas, Connecticut, and Tennessee.   He worked in various industries and in various positions where he learned the entire accounting cycle which led to being a Controller for a small company for four years.  He also spent six years implementing the Lawson Financial Suite at various businesses.  Throughout this time, he learned to analyze business processes and make improvements in efficiency either by changing processing procedures or by designing programs/databases that provided greater detail on outstanding balances.  For the last 16 years, he worked at another EMO (Educational Management Organization) that had schools all across the US and the UK.

Anne Mraz

Anne Mraz
Payroll Specialist & Accounts Payable Specialist
Athlos Academies

Anne Mraz worked for 23 years in the banking industry, culminating as a Regional Manager and Compliance Trainer. Afterwards, Anne started working with youth, including teaching remedial math to students exiting the court system and working with AmeriCorps Vista and 4H once moving to Idaho. Later, Anne worked for the Idaho Department of Recreation and then Tamarack Resort as the HR Manager, Payroll, A/P and billing agent/bookkeeper for Tamarack Video and Telecom.  Anne joined Athlos Academies in the spring of 2021 as a Payroll Specialist and Accounts Payable Specialist.

Cheryl Caldwell

Cheryl Caldwell
Payroll Specialist & Accounts Payable Specialist
Athlos Academies

Cheryl Caldwell has over twenty years of corporate and small business experience in office and human resources management.  She has assisted organizations in the construction, engineering, staffing, and energy industries successfully managing relationships and data to improve business processes and partnerships, both internally and externally.  Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Rutgers University – School of Business.

Our Academics Team

Michael Jennings

Michael Jennings
Healthy Body & Character Development Coordinator
Athlos Academies

Michael Jennings has over a decade of experience teaching and coaching at every level.  He has a Master’s Degree in both Secondary Education: Curriculum & Assessment and Exercise Physiology.  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association.  He has nearly a decade of experience in various youth development fields in both the public and private sectors.  Michael is a proponent of physical literacy, long term athletic development and the holistic development/education of all students. Along with speaking both nationally and internationally, he is a regular presenter at local, state, & regional conferences. He is passionate about the powerful role that movement, physical activity, & sport play in the holistic development of young people. He is dedicated to showing that physical education, physical activity & sport build strong foundations in our youth!

Cheryl Martin

Cheryl Martin
Executive Director
Athlos Academy of Jefferson Parish

Cheryl L. Martin has been an educator for more than 20 years. Her experience includes classroom teacher, National Institute of Excellence in Teaching (NIET) TAP Mentor, and Master teacher, Academic Dean, and Assistant Director of Assessment and Instruction. Most recently Mrs. Martin has served as Director of Lower School for Athlos Academy of Jefferson Parish.

Mrs. Martin’s educational journey began when a friend convinced her to enroll in an Introduction to Education course at Southern University at New Orleans. Once enrolled in the course she knew her calling was to impact the lives of disadvantaged youth by providing them with the “great equalizer”; a great education. This commitment to education later led to the completion of a Reading Specialist certification, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership.

In her effort to ensure every student demonstrated success, Mrs. Martin designed a school-wide intervention plan for McDonough 26 Elementary which helped the school achieve “Exemplary Growth” recognition for the 2011-2012 School year.

Mrs. Martin believes every child deserves the best education possible and the best education begins with well-qualified and well-trained teachers. This conviction motivates her to find innovative ways to support teachers and students each day.

Sam Gibbs

Sam Gibbs
Executive Director
Athlos Academy of Utah

Mr. Samuel Gibbs comes to Athlos Academy of Utah with a wealth of knowledge and 17 years of educational leadership experience. With a BA in secondary teaching from Brigham Young University and a MA in educational leadership from University of Cincinnati, Mr. Gibbs considers himself to be a lifelong learner. He was honored in 2017 as Utah’s Administrator of the Year and has served turnaround schools in both Ohio and Utah. Mr. Gibbs has a portfolio of notable success and a career that has been filled with helping push the bar of educational excellence for students, educators, families and school communities.

Michelle Marschel

Michelle Marschel
Executive Director
Athlos Academy of Wisconsin

Michelle Marschel is a Wisconsin educator of nearly twenty years. She began her career as a family and consumer science teacher and has since also served as an assistant principal and director of curriculum and instruction. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family social science, a master’s degree in education, and a teaching license from the University of Minnesota. Most recently, she obtained an administrative and curriculum director of instruction license from Cardinal Stritch University.

In the fall of 2018, she toured an Athlos school in Minnesota and subsequently began discussing with Athlos Academies leadership the possibility of launching a school in Wisconsin. Mrs. Marschel is now leading the launch of Athlos Academies newest school in the area of West Allis, Wisconsin.

Our Governance Team

Jill Turgeon-Turrill

Jill Turgeon-Turrill
School Governance Coordinator
Athlos Academies

Our Communication Team

Heather Crocker

Heather Crocker
Recruitment and Communications Director
Athlos Academies

Heather Crocker serves schools in the Athlos Academies network as the Recruitment and Communications Director. Crocker is a dynamic and innovative communications professional with twenty years of leadership experience in non-profits and K-12 education, with more than ten years of digital and social marketing experience.

Crocker earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from The College of Wooster. Prior to coming to Athlos Academies, she was the executive director of an education foundation and subsequently the director of communications for a school district.

Crocker is instrumental in advising leadership on communications strategy, executing campaigns for student enrollment and public finance campaigns, and developing high-impact content and storytelling.

Chukwunwike Diayi

Chukwunwike Diayi
Digital Marketing Specialist
Athlos Academies

Chukwunwike Diayi is the Digital Marketing Specialist at Athlos. He graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. He has been involved with digital marketing as a marketing & social media manager for translation services and as an administrative assistant & social media manager for a cosmetic company. Not only that, but he has also been involved in education at his university as a Resident Assistant, Academic Advising Assistant, and Service Assistant. Utilizing his unique experiences, Chukwunwike helps Athlos engage their current audience and market to new ones.

Brianna Ridinger
Graphic Designer
Athlos Academies

Bri Ridinger is a part of the Communications team as the Graphic Designer at Athlos Academies. She double majored with a BA in Journalism and Advertising with a vocational diploma in Graphic Design. She graduated from the University of Idaho and as a member of Kappa Delta sorority. After gaining her diploma, Bri did freelance graphic design in Utah until she joined the promotions team at Beaches where she promoted the company at events, local gyms and universities and had the opportunity to design promotional pieces for them as well. She then became the graphic designer for Notched Timber Structures and was in charge of their website re-design and management, email campaigns, photo editing, and promotional print/digital pieces. She loves getting people excited about upcoming events and projects, through the things that’s she designs & creates – flyers, apparel, posters social media graphics, banners, etc. Outside of the office she’s committed to the Healthy Body pillar by enjoying the outdoors and going on hikes and camping trips. Bri’s work at Athlos Academies focuses on design requests that come in from each school and creating designs that will engage and connect with the school’s students, families, and community.

Pillar Overview

Find out more about our three-pillar model.

Work at an Athlos School

See job openings at Athlos Academy schools.

Get Started

Interested in starting an Athlos Academy in your area?

Translate »