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Meet Stephanie Talley of Academics Plus in McKinney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Talley.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
As a kid, I had no clue what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. Even in college I tried out several majors–from pre-nursing, to music, to computer engineering–and nothing really stuck. Throughout my life, I had had many friends tell me I should be a teacher, but I always dismissed it as something that wasn’t practical because teachers don’t get paid nearly enough. But as I tried to figure out what to do with my life, I kept coming back to teaching. It really was perfect for me–it encompassed learning a variety of subjects, working with kids, and being a classic control nut. I finally realized that was what I was supposed to do, so I switched majors and never looked back.

After graduating, I taught 6th grade, then K-6 music, then 3rd grade. I loved it! But the one thing that always frustrated me was the kiddos that were behind. In a class of 25 or 30 students, how could I really get those kids caught up? Then my husband was offered a job in Texas. We were living in Utah at the time, but we picked up and moved that Thanksgiving. That was hard for me to do as a teacher, but it was the right thing for my family.

At first, I tried the stay-at-home-mom thing, but as much as I love my kids, it just wasn’t for me. Being that there were no teaching jobs during the middle of the school year, I started applying to everywhere I could think of, including tutoring centers. I received an immediate response from Melinda at Academics Plus, so I came in to do testing and an interview. I immediately fell in love with the center and with the diagnostic approach to teaching. This was how to get students caught up! Also, this small, locally-owned business had been running for over 20 years. As fate had it, Melinda saw some potential in me and I was offered a part-time position as an instructor.

That was in January of 2013. By June I was the full-time Assistant Director, and by the following June I was made the Director. Melinda was looking to be at the center less and less, so I ran the day-to-day business and she ran the payroll and paid the bills.

In the spring of 2015 Melinda asked if I’d like to own the business. I was initially terrified, but also intrigued. After being here at Academics Plus, I knew I wouldn’t ever want to return to the classroom. I had loved being a teacher, but I knew this was my place. My parents agreed to help fund the purchase of the business and suddenly I was a small business owner.

We are now nearing the end of our 26th year in business. Melinda is still heavily involved behind the scenes as our Founder/Consultant. We were recently blessed to be voted the best tutoring center in McKinney by the readers of Living Magazine. Students continue to grow and flourish. And I continue to learn every day, just like our kids do.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges for me has been learning how to manage a business. My background is in education, so things like running payroll and hiring employees don’t get me excited the way teaching math and reading does. But I’ve learned a lot and I’m continuing to learn more. A lot of it has come down to running the business with honesty and integrity, offering only the highest-quality of service, and being active in the community.

Academics Plus – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our standard blurb encompasses it all:

“Academics Plus is an experienced, supplemental education provider committed to increasing each student’s academic performance while creating an atmosphere of empowerment, enhancing the joy of learning, and encouraging personal excellence in school, home and community.”

It’s so much more than tutoring. It’s enrichment. It’s collaboration with school staff. It’s increasing confidence and academic risk-taking. We’ve helped identify learning differences in students that were struggling. We’ve helped students in special education move into general education. We’ve helped students get into college and get scholarships. We believe in doing whatever it takes to help students reach their potential.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I don’t know that I can pin that down, but I will give you an example of the pride I feel every day for our students:

One of our students (we will call her Liddy) is going into sixth grade this year. She came to us in first grade. We helped her parents and school identify her as a student with severe dyslexia. She was held back in first grade, but continued forward. She used to throw tantrums and cry and refuse to work. In fourth grade, she was identified as a student with anxiety as well. Every year she has improved in her reading and math skills, and every year we have advocated on her behalf. She has had wonderful teachers and support from home. This year as she heads into middle school she is going to take a PreAP math class! She no longer throws tantrums, she knows how to calm herself, and she has strategies to cope with her dyslexia. Liddy’s journey isn’t over, and she has become a part of our family. I’m sure that watching her graduate from high school will be a major highlight of my career and my life.


  • 50% off ($75) for a diagnostic assessment if you mention this interview.

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