Interview with Jay Veal
From a career in IT with Microsoft to Master Educator for students of color, Jay Veal, and his national network of tutors work with clients to take their performance to the next level.
How did you get into education?
A little bit of background about myself. My original background wasn’t in tech? I used to work at Microsoft for a couple of years. Also, I worked at Baylor Healthcare in IT and telecommunications organizations for a number of years. I kept on getting these emails in the tech sector about being an educator and teaching students here in Texas. I’m like, I want to be a CIO of a Fortune 100 company. And so, as I went along week after week after week, I got these emails three times. After the third time, I said, maybe God’s trying to give me a sign. So I moved from the Tech industry to Education and went into teaching at Townview Science & Engineering Magnet, which is the high school that I graduated from. So I went back to my Alma mater to go teach.
I taught a very unique class called, Fast Track Mathematics. If you can envision teaching freshmen 3 years of Pre AP Math, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Precalculus all in one year. It’s an accelerated approach. So these kids actually, my first year out the gate, got a perfect score on the state exam. I knew that at that point I had a gift for education and teaching and I continued on that track. For another 3 and a ½ years, I taught in the classroom and then I got promoted to become an instructional coach. I taught teachers for 3 years in mathematics and then became a district level administrator over 7 schools. Once I did that and was successful at that, I became an adjunct professor at a university for 4 more years. Then I moved over to the INC side.
What a resume! And you are so young.
I graduated high school when I was 16. I was a freshman in high school at 12 years old. I did a lot of great things early. So during that course of time, I noticed there was a gap between what students of color were not getting inside the classroom for support and what they weren’t getting outside the classroom. That’s when I started INC (It’s Not Complicated) Tutoring Before we changed our name to INC Education. That’s what happened. It was born at that moment.
I didn’t get the help, the mentorship, nobody I asked, nobody could say, here’s how you build a tutoring company. I had to figure it out. I look back at my journey and I’m like, man, I tell people this all the time. Sometimes I shed tears about it, but I didn’t get that help. I can’t do anything about that at this time, but what I can do is pay it forward and tell people this was my journey. Here’s how I got through it.
What does INC Education do?
What INC Education does is we tutor students from first grade to the doctorate level in STEM subjects, test prep, English, reading, writing, and foreign languages. We have about 95 tutors across the board between Dallas Fort Worth, Chicago, DC, Austin, and Atlanta. We’re currently the number one African American owned private education company in the United States. We’re an over half a million dollar company. We’ve made an impact on over 10,000 students. We’ve earned 11 awards. And we’re changing the game for students of color. Now we’re spearheading another movement called black tutors of social media, which will be the first place to find a tutoring company and private tutoring companies of color. It’s going to be a huge movement between Atlanta and Dallas, which will be the headquarters for both organizations.
You mentioned that you recently recovered from Covid-19.
Yeah. People were messaging me and kind of worried about what was going on. To be honest with you, people kept asking me the question, why did you even get tested? I just literally wanted to know, because it seemed like when you walked outside the door, you got Covid. So, I got tested and was not anticipating a positive result. When I got it back and I tested positive, I was like, what? I had just traveled to Atlanta at the time. Then I came back and I believe that’s when it happened when I went out to Atlanta. I had very bad migraines. I had the loss of taste and smell. I had a couple of symptoms, but for the most part I was asymptomatic.
Tell us about the students you work with.
Our demographic of students is roughly anywhere from your student who has been struggling who comes from an underprivileged background who may not be doing great in the classroom, but they’re not bad kids. They just don’t have the backing or the support at home to really thrive like they should. Goes all the way from those who are privileged. Those who live in great homes, regular homes, mansion homes. Then you have those who are super advanced who are doing really, really well. So we really have a great demographic all the way from your lower spectrum to your higher spectrum of high performing kids who are coming from magnet schools. We have kids in magnet schools, online schools, charter schools, public schools, virtual schools, your privates, all of that.
We also have people that are in universities and people that are coming to us from the doctoral level. They’re normally getting tutoring with us for statistics and they’re graduating with their doctoral degrees. We’re the only tutoring organization that goes as high as PhD level. We do service everybody. You don’t have to be a person of color just to get tutored by us. But, we target mostly students of color who need that support, who need to be tutored by somebody who looks like them, walks like them, and talks like them. Someone who interacts like them and can understand their dynamics. We can relate the content to those particular students.
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You must have an amazing team.
I’m proud of my team. I always say none of this stuff comes from me. I’m the lowest person on the totem pole. They’re a great team. About 90% millennial. We have folks who are anywhere from high school interns to 38 years old who already have one, two, and three degrees. I have a frat brother of mine who is a millennial, 27 years old, and already has a PhD. We have people from Howard, Yale, and Cornell. So we have some great, talented people on our team.
Did you have parents who were educators?
Both my parents were retired military in the air force. So I had a very strict upbringing. I believe I was grounded for a couple of weeks when I got a B in Spanish. I had to do everything with excellence. I couldn’t do something that wasn’t right. Both my parents were involved. My mom was a little bit more involved in the educational process. When I graduated high school, I actually ended up attending the U S Naval Academy. I had to have great grades. I had to get a recommendation from a U.S. senator. I actually got a vice presidential nomination as well. And you can only get that if your parents have been in the military. So I got all of that, but I tell people all the time, when you go to an Academy or you apply to an Academy, it’s not like you’re the best anymore. It’s everybody who is the best competing, which takes the competition to another level.
What’s a win for you?
Yeah, that’s an awesome, awesome question. For our organization specifically, I define a win as did we move the student from where they were. Whether it’s failing or whether it’s having a C or a B, or wherever they were, and then did we move them to success to the next level in grade? Did we make sure that they pass their exams successfully? I’m not just saying average passing, I’m talking about A’s and B’s. They are in a top tier percentage of your state and/or the U S when you pass these particular exams.
Where do parents fit in?
The new normal is how do we bridge the gap between being an educator and then being the parent? Now, granted we know the parent is really the first educator of the student. However, we do know that not all parents are educators. So at the same point in time, we consider that to be a partnership. The parent is not necessarily the educator to give them the dynamic education they need, but they are an ally who we lean on to make sure that that student is doing what they’re supposed to do at home, especially in tutoring, as we’re, we’re getting that student where they need to be, we’re assigning homework to them to get done.
So we don’t have to go backwards when we see them again the next week or the next day, we can move that kid and accelerate them to where they need to be. You know one of our previous clientele who is now based in the Chicago area. At the same point in time, they came to us for a homeschool solution. We homeschooled their kid in our office here and in DFW. We taught them seventh grade and eighth grade content in only seven months; they got straight A’s. Now they’re going into ninth grade in Chicago. That is the kind of approach in our company that can get those kids where they need to be every single time.
And we have to lean on the parent as our ally to say, look, this is what we’re going to do, but this is where we need your help because we can’t do it alone. So we need X, Y, and Z. This is how we’re going to get it achieved with this plan and with this timeline. I think that is the key to success to bridge the gap between the loss of learning and where the teacher and the parent can work together. Not against one another. We’re not rubbing against grains. We’re smoothing things out like sandpaper. So at the end of the day, the student’s outcome is where it’s supposed to.
Is the learning gap expanding for disadvantaged kids?
Some recent articles have popped up within the past couple of days about how that technology gap is widening and how the learning gap is widening for students of color and or underprivileged families where kids may not have that particular access at home. They can’t at this moment because of COVID-19 necessarily go out somewhere – to the library or wherever to get access. So the best solution in most cases is to the school that they were part of before COVID happened. Or if they’re part of that same school, the goal would be to really say, Hey, look, do you have computers and technology or wifi, or, hotspots to where you can grab those from the school, bring them home and release them directly after.
So you can have those particular tools when you’re in the sessions with us or you’re at home trying to use that technology. We could still help with that and be able to bring you on board. But the cool thing is that most of these students, if they don’t have that technology at home, they at least have one of these (mobile phone). So guess what, if we need to, really, we don’t prefer to tutor students on FaceTime or Google duo with the phones, but if we have to, we can go that route and we can have them download Zoom. We can have them download whatever we need them to download. So we don’t have to stop the learning process.
Your story is very inspiring.
I didn’t get the help, the mentorship, nobody I asked, nobody could say, here’s how you build a tutoring company. I had to figure it out. I look back at my journey and I’m like, man, I tell people this all the time. Sometimes I shed tears about it, but I didn’t get that help. I can’t do anything about that at this time, but what I can do is pay it forward and tell people this was my journey. Here’s how I got through it. Just have a real humble spirit about helping students and helping kids. That’s what I’m here for.
Now I’ve got other people from across the country calling. Somebody in Dallas was like, “Hey, I’m starting a tutoring company. I heard about you from somewhere else. Can you help me build a tutoring company?” Like people are now asking “How did you guys do what you did? How did you become successful? How did you build a solid tutoring company that was actually profitable.”
You were the first tutoring company on PocketSuite.
To everybody out there, all the founders out there on the PocketSuite platform, we love what you guys are doing with the app. We’re proud to have been one of the first ones to come on board in this industry. Whether you’re in beauty or education or walking dogs or a painter, a carpenter, whatever you do as an entrepreneur, don’t let the pandemic be a detractor from what your goals and your purpose are. You let the pandemic be a springboard for you to pivot and do the right thing at the right time for all the right people.
Storytelling is very important. Minority communities need more of it.
Man, there are so many stories that are untold and there’s great people doing so many great things. If our story is not told in these platforms and these magazines, we can’t get it out and it’s a bad thing. So I appreciate you guys, going behind the scenes pushing for entrepreneurs and having these types of podcast conversations where we can actually inspire others. So thank you so much as well.