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(219) 838-0740 | info@exceledgeinc.com

Our Team

Our Teachers. A team of more than 200 at last count, our teachers direct the test preparation efforts of students. These coaches are at the top of their game; they know how to ensure student success. First and foremost secondary certified teachers, our instructors are highly credentialed. Most hold Master degrees. Many are National Board Certified. Many are certified by their state as “highly qualified.” All attend yearly workshops to update them on exam changes. Most significant, our teachers love to teach, and it shows.

Our Supervisors. A staff of 50 regional leaders direct the teaching teams. With years of experience behind them in their own school districts and with ExcelEdge, supervisors are master teachers and our administrators.

Roundtable Discussion with Supervisors

At a conference of educators, our supervisory team participated in a panel discussion. Their responses to the moderator's questions follow.

Why do you work with ExcelEdge, Inc.?

“I wanted to join the ExcelEdge staff because I was impressed with my daughters' success after they took the course. I love being a member of a team of teachers that prepares students for such an important test. On the first night of class, I greet students who are nervous and insecure about the test, but on the final night, they are confident: they know what to expect and have the tools to perform their best.”

Patricia Tylka, BS English and Speech, University of Illinois
MA Curriculum and Leadership, St. Xavier University

 

“I love helping students achieve their personal best, and I have seen how helpful this program can be. My nephew improved his overall score by 4 points; another student improved his reading score by 10 points. It is so rewarding to hear the relief and gratitude in their voices when they come back to thank me. But it’s not really about me – it’s about them practicing simple strategies that really do help!”

Holly Williams, BA English, Secondary Education,
Missouri Baptist University

 

“Preparing our college-bound youth for their high stakes tests is an important and critical task. It builds student confidence and student success. I thoroughly enjoy working with students who are motivated to achieve their personal best and feel honored to be working with a caring and professional ExcelEdge staff.”

Debra Potempa
BS Biology Education
Minor General Science Western Illinois University
MA Science Education, Governors State University

 

“I work with ExcelEdge because of the people involved and because of the difference ExcelEdge makes in students' lives. I think so highly of the program, two of my own children enrolled, excelled, and are now both at the colleges of their choice.”

Sean Clark
BS English, Illinois State University
MA English, Governors State University
MA School Improvement Leadership, Type 75 certification

 

What sets ExcelEdge apart from other test preparation companies?

“The ‘edge’ is what defines ExcelEdge. This company is constantly updating information to give your child what they need to compete in the college admissions arena. Content-filled classes taught in a friendly, interactive format by caring instructors make the difference for course participants.”

Ellen Corey
BA English & Psychology, Marymount College
MA Counseling, Pacific Lutheran University
Educator of the Year 2010

 

“I have been working for ExcelEdge, Inc. for a number of years – first as a math teacher and, now, also as a supervisor. This program helps students achieve their ‘personal best.’ The students have the opportunity to practice strategies and work with actual retired tests. In the classroom, the students have the opportunity to get immediate feedback on their concerns and also hear how other students are thinking about the same or related problems. The personal interaction is invaluable! Students' scores have improved significantly by applying what they have learned in this course. I wouldn't work for a company unless I had faith in their program.”

Carol A. Tegge
BS Mathematics, University of Illinois
MS Mathematics, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

 

“All ExcelEdge teachers are state certified in their specific subject area – English, math or science. They have experience teaching high school students of all academic levels. They come to ExcelEdge through personal recommendations from current staff. All teachers, both new and veterans, receive annual training to teach and improve our work with the students in our classes as they prepare to take the PSAT, ACT, or SAT.”

Diane Harris
BA English, Purdue University
MS Reading, DePaul University

 

“I have spent 40 years working with high school and now college students. My greatest joy is seeing them learn something for the first time and then find success with it. I feel that ExcelEdge provides that same personal touch for all students to find success on the ACT test.”

Richard Clish
BA English, Illinois State University
MA English, Northeastern Illinois University
CAS, Concordia College

 

“ExcelEdge offers students a plethora of test materials, strategies, and resources to prepare for one of the most important exams of their high school careers. This program is unlike any other because it is taught by certified professional teachers who have an incredibly strong knowledge of the material because they teach it every day in the classroom and every evening with your child. The staff at ExcelEdge understands the magnitude of test preparation.”

Alicia Jakubek
BA English Literature, Illinois Wesleyan University
MS Educational Administration, Olivet Nazarene University
MS Counseling and School of Guidance, Lewis University

 

What difference does a strategy-based course make?

“I see my students having success using our ExcelEdge strategies on math problems they would not otherwise have been able to answer correctly. After taking our course, students go into the test with confidence, knowing they have the tools to succeed.”

Sherry Chromzack
BS Education, Illinois State University
MS Education, Illinois State University

 

“The English exam tests more than English. It tests a student’s ability to look past the obvious task at hand and approach the passage a new way. Students need to know what three pieces of information they need to immediately glean from the first paragraph – even before they answer the first question – in order to ensure they get the greatest number of items correct. They need to be able to determine when items no longer ask students to make a decision about a single grammatical element but instead ask them to make a rhetorical decision about an entire sentence or a paragraph. Strategies allow the student who already has a solid command of English to switch gears fluidly, without sacrificing time, to achieve optimal results.”

JoAnn Wayne
BS, English and Secondary Education, Purdue University
MS, English and Secondary Education, Reading K-12, Purdue University

 

“Students know the math. But…Can they quickly ascertain what is being asked? Can they side-step ponderous computations? The test writers are asking students to use gamesmanship on this test. Students have to be fleet of mind. This is not like the math tests their teachers write.”

Jeffrey Kollar
BS Math, Northern Illinois University
MS Ed, Northern Illinois University
MALS, Rosary College
CCNA and CCNI, College of DuPage
41 years in education.

 

“A strategy-based course gives students the tools to manage time effectively and read only the material necessary to maximize each individual's score.”

Loren Mann
BS Chemistry, Andrews University
MS Physical Chemistry, Northwestern University

 

From your point of view, what is the biggest benefit of our program(s) for kids?

“Testing can be an enormous hurdle that can either paralyze a student or challenge them to achieve excellence. Our staff at ExcelEdge, Inc. is dedicated to providing tools and experiences that can make each student confident and successful, no matter what their goal. Our personal approach to teaching allows each student to welcome our needed system of strategies and practice. I have remained with this company for nearly 20 years because I have continually seen students reach levels of confidence and improvement, placing them at their very best for any test – PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, or SAT.”

Teri Braband
BS Mathematics, Illinois State University
MS Secondary Education, Northern Illinois University
High School Mathematics Instructor, 14 years
Test Prep Instructor, 18 years

 

"This class is the perfect wake-up call for juniors. It helps them realize that they are now in control of their future. By taking this class, learning the strategies, and practicing the problems, students can really improve their test scores. A higher test score equals more college and scholarship options. This class teaches self-motivated learning. The more students put in, the more they get out. This is a great skill for any college-bound student to learn, self-discipline.”

Stephanie Potter
BA Speech and Theatre Education, Ball State University
Endorsements grades 5-12 in English / Language Arts, Ball State University

 

“The ExcelEdge programs encourage students to flourish with the application of innovative test-taking strategies and the guidance of excellent educators. I love to watch a student's level of confidence transform from the first to the last week of classes.”

Kristin Fernandez
BS Biology and Psychology, Elmhurst College
MS Counseling, Northern Illinois University

 

“I have seen time and again that test prep makes a huge difference in kids' scores and that good scores enable students to qualify for scholarships and college placement. Since we practice on actual tests in ExcelEdge classes, students should feel very comfortable and well-prepared and confident when they take national college exams.”

Peggy Madderom
BS Education., Chicago State University
MA English, Purdue University

 

Our Founders. Carol and Dave Talabay oversee all programs, fine tune the curriculum and coordinate schools, the teaching and supervisory staff and our students.

Interview with Carol Talabay

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of ExcelEdge, a local business publication featured Carol Talabay and her corporation. The interview follows.

What is the history behind your corporation?

ExcelEdge, Inc. was incorporated in 1987. Although we are celebrating our 25th corporate year, our roots are humble. As a member of the English faculty of Purdue University in the 1980s, I was dispatched to a local school system to assist with their reading and writing curriculum. The superintendent, new to that district, had just come from New York. He asked me to develop an SAT test preparation curriculum for his district, which I did. Together we piloted it; rewrote it; tested it; fine tuned it. By 1982, neighboring schools had heard of our work, and the audience grew. By 1987 I was advised to establish a corporation, which I did. ExcelEdge worked in area school systems readying juniors for the SAT with SAT 1600 (which became SAT 1600 with the addition of the Writing Test in 2005). We prepped Merit contenders with PSAT 1520. We helped freshmen shape their study habits with A Study Skills Game Plan. In 1989, the ACT launched Project Silver, reinvented itself as a major testing force, and our new textbook, ACT 36 was born, a deliberate clone of the new ACT. Twenty plus years, multiple textbook revisions and more than 135,000 students later, we have not deviated from our initial mission: to provide a quality test preparation experience, grounded in research, shaped by best practices, taught by dynamic teachers, all at a cost affordable to middle income families.

Has test preparation changed over the last two decades?

The face of test preparation has changed in the last twenty years. Much of that change was fueled by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and state mandated graduation qualifying exams: the Illinois Prairie State Achievement Exam (the PSAE), the Michigan Merit Exam (the MME) and the Indiana Graduation Qualifying Exam (GQE). Seeing a niche market, MBAs and marketers have clamored for school business and have capitalized on the angst schools experience as they measure themselves against neighboring systems and weigh their progress on state scales. These businesses have capitalized on the very real fear that comes from the stigma of state sanctions when scores fall short of their target. Businesses also have capitalized on the anxiety that parents feel as they measure their juniors against peers. However, solid test scores are an outgrowth of commitment to academics, on the part of the student, the parent and the school, just as they always have been. When we partner with school systems which share our vision, where the learning community works hard each day to achieve optimal results because teachers and students understand the tests, there is no need to panic. Students will do well, and they will reflect well on the school systems that have nurtured their growth. It is always our pleasure to assist schools with which we are philosophically attuned.

What type of student enrolls in your programs?

Prior to 1991, the ACT was first and foremost a test for college admission. Our classes were filled with college-bound students for whom our program was a solid match. Juniors who came to us from most suburban school systems were on track for college-level work and the college admissions test that would fairly measure their progress. Once the State of Illinois mandated the ACT be a part of the PSAE and Michigan mandated the ACT be a part of the MME, our enrollment grew. We now attract additional students who might never have considered taking an ACT, students who had not considered themselves college bound. Fueled by NCLB (No Child Left Behind), schools encouraged test prep for their students not just for college admission but as an opportunity to increase scores on the PSAE and the MME.

The student who enrolls in SAT 1600 is one who has performed at the top end of the spectrum on the October PSAT/ NMSQT and is looking for a confirming score on the SAT. Our SAT 1600 students are also those who choose to go to a college or university that prefers the SAT. That said, most colleges look at either the SAT or ACT for a student and do not insist on one test over the other. Overwhelmingly, our SAT 1600 classes are filled with Indiana students as compared to our ACT 36 classes, which are filled with juniors from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Students in PSAT 1520 are students who have the potential to score among the top 50,000 testers in the United States or juniors who choose to hone their test taking skills, either in preparation for a spring SAT or for standardized tests in general.

How do you measure your success?

Truly, we measure our success each day! Nothing is more gratifying than the phone call with news about a college acceptance letter, a scholarship or a new opportunity tied to increased scores. It is a joy to hear from a parent that a student has learned so much or feels good about herself or is no longer frightened by standardized tests. Of course, data that comes from comparing growth before and after our course is accurate and compelling, but it is not this big picture, but rather the individual ones, that are most gratifying.

Tell me about your staff?

Teachers are the backbone of the program. Of course, they must be credentialed, but they also must be engaging and personable. Because students usually come to us a after a long school day, the staff who teaches them has to be energetic and informative. All staff must be secondary certified in the content area in which they are teaching. Most hold master degrees, although some have bachelor degrees and are working on their next degree. Many are National Board Certified, something we encourage (and we assist in the process). Some hold Type 75 administrative licenses, as well. All must come recommended by the school in which they are teaching, most often a school in which we are offering programs. Staff must have three professional references, all of which are carefully checked. Because we pay staff well, we attract superb teachers.

Supervisors are the best of the best. They possess all the qualities of our teaching staff and have been with us for years.

As you look back over the last 25 years, what have you found most satisfying about your work?

In the early years, watching our corporation grow was most enjoyable. As news of our success spread, this small corporation grew school by school with Munster, Indiana, as its epicenter. Its reach extended north to the Ann Arbor area, south to Indianapolis, west to Wisconsin and east to Ft. Wayne. It was a joy to watch schools understand that standardized test taking was a subject that could be taught by talented teachers to motivated students, a win-win proposition for kids, parents, schools and communities. As I have grown with the corporation, my greatest joy comes from the students themselves and the opportunities that have come to them, in part because of our program(s). I delight in hearing from our many successful graduates who keep in touch with stories of their achievements.

 
 
Not just test preparation...New ways of thinking
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