July 03, 2023
DreamBox Learning is not only unique for its ability to support educators and drive student learning. It’s also unique because our team includes diverse, passionate, and bright individuals who care about transforming the way the world learns.
For us, it’s important to capture their stories and share what makes them special. We celebrate the people at DreamBox who bring ideas to life, make the impossible possible, and empower their teams to do well to do good.
Please meet our colleague and friend, Dex.
DreamBox interviewer: Thank you so much for joining us today, Dex. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dex: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I moved to Portland when I started working for DreamBox a couple of years ago. I live with my two dogs (Bowie and Freddie) and my two cats (Gus and Birdie). I spend as much time as I can exploring the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest. I also love to see live music and have started checking out all of the great venues in Portland as of late.
DreamBox interviewer: What are some ways you strive to improve the world beyond your role at DreamBox Learning?
Dex: I am passionate about LGBTQIA+ rights, and especially focused right now on protecting the rights of Trans people. In the past, I have partnered with an organization in Los Angeles to raise money for unhoused LGBTQIA+ youth, and I worked with other organizations create a safe space for queer youth within classrooms and schools in Los Angeles.
DreamBox interviewer: What are some projects outside of work you’re particularly proud of?
Dex: I’m most proud of the work that I've done as an educator in Los Angeles. In 2014, I began my career in education and had the privilege of working at two exceptional elementary charter schools. I had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from some of the greatest educators in the field, where we worked toward a shared vision of educational equity.
DreamBox interviewer: Those school communities were lucky to have you. Was there a person or event that inspired your love of reading or math?
Dex: I was fortunate to have been intrinsically drawn to both reading and math. From an early age, my parents recognized that and fostered a love for both. My dad used to work in Downtown Los Angeles across from the public library. Occasionally, I would convince him to take me to work with him. He’d drop me off at the library where I would stay for the entire day, read so many books, and collect a proper stack to bring home with me. We had a deal that I could read three books of my choice (typically Christopher Pike or R.L. Stine), and then he'd get to choose one for me, which is how I was introduced to classics like A Wrinkle in Time, Tom Sawyer, and 1984. To this day, the vast majority of space in my house is taken up by books.
DreamBox interviewer: What a great way to foster a love for reading. Can you share how you came to work for DreamBox?
Dex: When I transitioned careers and started teaching, I truly believed I would be working in schools for the rest of my career. In 2017, I was diagnosed with cancer and spent the next couple of years in treatment. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit, I was still immunocompromised and unable to return in person, so I knew that I needed to pivot again. The silver lining is that the pandemic created a technological awakening within schools, and I saw the potential for educational technology to revolutionize education. More specifically, I see it as a key lever in the journey toward educational equity in this country.
DreamBox interviewer: You handled that stressful situation really well. What made you choose to work for DreamBox?
Dex: I began my teaching career as a special educator and ended it as a director of special education. Even when I was teaching in general education spaces, my focus was always on differentiation and aligning with Universal Design for Learning frameworks. I knew DreamBox to be the only product that provides a truly differentiated learning pathway, making math instruction accessible to all students. To me, this made DreamBox the most aligned with my personal educational mission.
DreamBox interviewer: That’s a great connection. How would you describe the DreamBox Difference?
Dex: The DreamBox Difference is that we believe all students can enjoy and excel in their learning if they are given the chance to explore concepts and create schemas in a progression that is natural to them. Education in general and other programs on the market provide linear approaches to learning – a sort of one-size-fits all approach that in actuality fits very few students. Rather than progressing students on a learning trajectory largely based on the amount of time in a school year, DreamBox provides students with an opportunity to create their own learning pathways. Students can move through our program at their own pace, receiving the scaffolds to ensure they can demonstrate understanding before moving ahead.
Students are not told how to solve problems. Instead in DreamBox, they are supported as they realize the strategies that work best for them. Students are celebrated for their growth and not solely measured by grades and standards. This is how all educators understand learning happens, but it’s rarely the environment we provide for students in schools. However, DreamBox does. And that is the DreamBox Difference.
DreamBox interviewer: Which DreamBox value resonates the most with you?
Dex: Benevolent friction is my favorite DreamBox value! I have always been a person who has a lot of questions about why things are the way they are, and how they came to be. I’m constantly learning (another favorite value), and that requires evaluating sources and pushing current limitations and constraints to where the growth happens. The idea that this is celebrated as a catalyst for evolution is important to me as a DreamBox employee.
DreamBox interviewer: Agreed — it's a great value. How best do you learn?
Dex: I am neurodiverse so it can vary a lot. Generally speaking, I learn best when I can observe how to create schema and then try doing it myself. If I'm interested in something – if it excites me – I tend to absorb the information quickly and easily. If I can't create buy-in for myself, it can be hard to dedicate the attention needed to truly learn, so it's helpful to break things into small objectives that lead to an overall goal.
DreamBox interviewer: What skill do you think everyone should learn?
Dex: Empathy, which is a skill that truly needs to be honed. I think a lot of people believe it to be innate, and I would caution against that belief. I think empathy and sympathy are often conflated. To truly be able to understand and share the feelings of another person, you have to set your own aside. That takes intentional practice and reflection.
DreamBox interviewer: Thank you so much for your time today, Dex. It was wonderful to learn more about you. The last thing we’d like to ask is, what motivates you?
Dex: I am most motivated to work in spaces that will help mitigate the negative impact of previous generations on our future generations: education and health care reform, climate change, and human rights issues are my passion points.