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A marriage of teaching and entrepreneurship

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Jonathan Hagmaier married into a great deal of entrepreneurial know-how, while his wife, Mary, married a man with extensive teaching expertise.

Both skill sets have proved equally useful in their business venture together.

“I kind of learned from her, that’s where I developed some of my business sense,” Jonathan said of his wife, who has owned a series of realty firms. “She brought that to the table and I just started learning from watching her go through that process.”

Now, they’re both helping thousands of teachers learn more about their students through Interactive Achievement, which provides online testing software to help educators analyze and track student performance on state benchmarks. In 2006, the couple teamed with fellow entrepreneur Matt Muller to start the company in Roanoke, and six years later, along with Vice President of Business Development Jacob Gibson, the team was named Virginia’s 2012 Small Businesspersons of the Year by the Small Business Administration.

“We help teachers see exactly where each child needs help, and we help them see it easily and immediately,” Gibson said.

Interactive Achievement provides item banks from which instructors can create their own tests, and the firm’s software then analyzes each student’s performance and spits out detailed information regarding each individual’s strengths and weaknesses within every subject. With materials spanning the four subject areas (English, mathematics, science and history) and all grade levels, the company has now worked with nearly 50,000 teachers at roughly 780 schools.

Nearly all of them are in Virginia, but the company recently signed its first clients in Tennessee and South Carolina — an expansion that was largely financed by a loan backed by the Virginia Business Assistance Program.

“I can’t even tell you how blessed we are to be in the state of Virginia,” Hagmaier, chairman and chief executive, said, later noting that his company also received an SBA-backed loan earlier in its history. “During the worst recession this country has seen in a long time, our company grew very quickly, and that’s thanks largely to the fact that Virginia is just so pro-business. It’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Interactive Achievement’s rapidly expanding client list called for a similarly quick increase in staff, and the company has grown from a four-person team to 44 employees in just over five years. More than half of them are former teachers, many of whom still spend half their days at the office and the other half tutoring students at local schools.

Interactive Achievement is currently rolling out a new database that incorporates large amounts of data across many students, school and districts to provide a more comprehensive look at larger trends in K-12 learning and teaching methods. And in the years ahead, the executives said they hope to expand their services to include testing in areas like foreign languages and technical career training.

“Our goal is to continue providing resources that improve student achievement, and that means expanding in two ways — both geographically, reaching more students across many states, and by providing new products,” Gibson said.

© The Washington Post Company