All Roads Lead Back to Education

Following Diverse Career Path, MasteryPrep Instructor Sarah Matney Returns to Her Passion for Teaching

Who is Sarah Matney?

  • An event planner who hosted private parties for LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
  • An entrepreneur who founded both a kombucha company and farmer’s market.
  • A restaurateur who ran the kitchen frontline at Cheesecake Factory.

But despite all those diverse career roads traveled, Sarah Matney chose to return to education.

“In high school, I was voted Most Likely to be a Teacher, and I feel like there have been educational and communications components to my previous careers that I have enjoyed exploring,” Matney said. “I am a high-energy, people person who feeds off a passion for solving problems, coming up with solutions, and I have just always loved helping people learn new things.”

Matney joined MasteryPrep in 2019. She serves in various roles with the college readiness company, including ACT® and SAT® Mastery classroom and Boot Camp instructor; Decoding the ACT and SAT professional development facilitator; product training facilitator; SNAP script writer; and curriculum editor.

One of Matney’s more memorable moments with MasteryPrep came from a Boot Camp she taught in Sylva, North Carolina. Her student’s ACT® score jumped from a 14 to 24. “I was getting ready to leave the school, and one of the girls I taught came into the library. She was teary-eyed, told me about her new ACT score, and thanked me. I was able to redefine that future for my student; that always solidifies that you’re making a difference in someone’s life.

Education Sarah Matney

Teacher at a Young Age

Sarah Matney Educator

Matney is one of seven children. Since her childhood, she often found herself helping siblings with their schoolwork. Her older sister was born with a learning disability, and Matney loved to help her read. She began tutoring children outside her family while she was in middle school and when she started a summer tutoring program and reading book club at the library. “I was a fast reader and loved exploring those stories with other children. I think my mom being a librarian and my dad being a preacher definitely sparked having a passion for reading, and then wanting to share that education with kids around me.”

After Matney was voted “Most Likely to be a Teacher” in her high school’s yearbook, she began college as a pre-med student; but she switched to English and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Emory and Henry College in Virginia in 2008. During her college years, she was a co-founder of Learning Landscapes, an outdoor curriculum for elementary schools in both southwest Virginia and east Tennessee.

After college, Matney moved to Austin, Texas, and her first career stop was teaching pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for two years. “One of the hardest jobs I ever had,” she laughed. On a teacher’s salary, Matney worked part-time as a waitress and bartender at Cheesecake Factory.  There, she was promoted to expo manager and corporate trainer.

“I enjoyed the restaurant business; I was able to organize franchise restaurant openings, train staff, and develop needed business and communication skills.”

Kombucha, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan

In 2012, Matney moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Her diverse career path was just getting started. Interested in nutrition and developing a healthier lifestyle, Matney launched her own kombucha company, SUM Bucha. Kombucha is a carbonated, naturally fermented tea that balances the digestive system, clears the skin, and contains antioxidants that fight off free radicals in chronic diseases. She also co-founded Central Food Hub, a farmer’s market in Charlotte; she delivered food into lower-income areas that didn’t have access to fresh produce. “I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, and I enjoyed sharing that knowledge to help others.” While Matney was running both businesses, she also served as bartender and events captain for a Charlotte-upscale restaurant, Fahrenheit. “I planned and ran LeBron James’s 30-year-old birthday party; ran a private event for Michael Jordan, and several other celebrities; and I was knee deep in the hospitality industry,” Matney said.

But the entrepreneur still had education on her mind. She started an entrepreneur club for high school students in the Charlotte region who were interested in becoming business owners. Matney also did substitute teaching and tutoring in ACT and SAT®.

Life Reset in the Mountains

The part-time Entrepreneur, CEO, Hospitality and Events Captain, needed a life reset in 2018, and settled in her current destination, Asheville, North Carolina. “I love the outdoors – kayaking, hiking – the mountains are beautiful out here.” Her life reset also led Matney back to the career in which she started – education – interviewing for and accepting the instructor position with MasteryPrep. MasteryPrep’s mission of “every student can graduate high school with a college-ready ACT or SAT score” inspires Matney through her various roles with the company.

"I am a big advocate for working to fix disparities in education. That feeling resonates back to when I was younger, and I was tutoring kids who were home-schooled or who lived in low-income areas and had little access to education opportunities." MasteryPrep fills that niche of providing college readiness resources that help students master test-taking skills, time management strategies, and key content on standardized tests, so they can score college ready."

In addition to teaching students, Matney provides professional development to teachers through MasteryPrep’s Decoding the ACT and SAT professional development programs. “We help core teachers in our partner classrooms teach to the test and implement our resources into their curriculums without wasting valuable class time,” said Matney. “I enjoy working with educators to collaborate and brainstorm about ways we can join forces to get their students into college.”

One of Matney’s favorite strategies to teach is the process of elimination. “Process of elimination is a great test-taking strategy. On a multiple choice test, if you can find falsifications to disprove answers, then you more confidently land on the correct answer and improve your accuracy.”

Matney said she uses several of the same test strategies she teaches. She is currently working on a Master of Business Administration degree from Western Governor’s University.

Another road traveled for soon to be Sarah Matney, M.B.A.

Sarah Matney's class

About MasteryPrep: Founded in 2012, Baton Rouge-based MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources, such as for the ACT and SAT, to more than 2,000 schools and districts nationwide. In addition, MasteryPrep has helped more than 1 million low-income students prepare for the ACT and SAT at no cost to the student. Nationally, MasteryPrep is the preferred ACT and SAT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education, expanding college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Pacific Islands, and Puerto Rico. MasteryPrep is ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies”; featured by “Entrepreneur 360”; and selected among the “Growth Leaders” by Louisiana Economic Development for two years in a row.

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