September 11, 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, Kerry.
DreamBox interviewer: Thank you so much for joining us today, Kerry. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kerry: I live on Long Island, NY, with my husband Rick and assorted spoiled cats. We have two daughters, Rayne and Julia, who are in college. We love it when the kids are home, but we've also come to enjoy our status as empty nesters when they're back at school. Earlier this year we bought an RV, and it’s just big enough for the two of us. It's been way too much fun and is great for campus visits, concerts, and performances (both daughters are music majors).
DreamBox interviewer: An RV sounds very fun! What are some ways you strive to improve the world beyond your role at DreamBox Learning?
Kerry: There's a quote from Robert Baden-Powell: “Leave this world a little better than you found it.” I try to do that, usually in small ways throughout the day. A lot of times, this is by cleaning or fixing something (and there's usually always something). It could be by helping someone. Sometimes it's just by being kind. All the stuff we learned in kindergarten, right? Small actions can have a big impact.
DreamBox interviewer: Was there a person or event that inspired your love of reading or math?
Kerry: I've been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents valued reading, and we always had books in the house and often made weekly visits to the local library. When I was young, I developed a method for choosing what to read. I would wander into different sections of the library and pick any book that caught my attention. I'd open it up and start reading. If I liked it enough to turn the page, then I would take the book home. My parents never restricted a book or told me it was out of my range. I read what I liked and skipped over the parts that were too hard or beyond my understanding at that time. I think that's how I came to appreciate reading about a wide range of topics. Books opened entire new worlds for me, and reading brought me immense joy (and still does!). I deeply appreciate that I have a career where I can help others find that joy, too.
DreamBox interviewer: What a great way to foster a love for reading. Can you share how you came to work in education and eventually DreamBox?
Kerry: My professional life in general has taken a lot of turns down several unexpected roads. I began my career in edtech in 2012 when I joined Reading Plus as an editor, and I became a DreamBoxer via the acquisition in 2021. Before Reading Plus, I taught at a local college, doing mostly developmental writing and freshman composition classes, with the occasional introduction to literature class. My background is in literature, and I have a master's degree in English with a focus on gender studies.
I joke that I've had several past lives prior to teaching. I worked in retail for more than a decade. I've been a customer service rep in the optical industry, a legal assistant for a real estate attorney, a newspaper deliverer, a nanny, and a martial artist.
DreamBox interviewer: You have such a wide variety of experiences! How would you describe the DreamBox Difference?
Kerry: In terms of the DreamBox products, I would say the DreamBox Difference is grounded in two things:
Our advocacy of science, data, and research for every product component
Our dedication to serve all students from all backgrounds to help them succeed in school and in life, regardless of their ZIP codes
In terms of the DreamBox company, I'll refer to an expression (that I'll paraphrase badly here) to explain the DreamBox Difference. We're not DreamBox employees who have families; we're people with families and lives who happen to work at DreamBox. Meaning, we're people with families first and employees second. We're encouraged--and expected – to have an actual work/life balance. I've had many jobs over the years where this balance was absolutely not part of the culture at all, and it's something that I value highly.
DreamBox interviewer: I know you work closely with our reading products Reading Park and Reading Plus, so I’d love to learn more about what it’s been like working on those products. What do you think sets them apart?
Kerry: A large part of my work at DreamBox includes the creation and curation of texts. Our team is very particular about the content in Reading Plus. Every text must be a text worth reading—we don’t deal in fluff or sensationalism. We also know that students in our program come from all kinds of backgrounds, families, and experiences, so diversity is also always on our radar. Students should be able to find texts that reflect their lives. Students should also be able to find texts that bring the world to them. I really enjoy creating and curating content—I like to say it’s a task that pushes all my nerdy buttons.
I’ve also done content creation and curation for Reading Park. It’s been an amazing experience to see Reading Park come together. The amount of research, data, and expertise that has gone into it is simply astounding. Reading Park is adaptive. It’s interactive. It’s engaging and, honestly, a lot of fun. There are several former educators at DreamBox, and one of our guiding principles is how we can best help both students and teachers who use our program. We’re always looking at how to improve student experiences, and I think we’ve been pretty successful so far.
DreamBox interviewer: Which DreamBox value resonates the most with you?
Kerry: Be Adaptive resonates the most with me. Things change, and priorities and resources shift. New information replaces old. The six most restrictive words are often, "We've always done things this way." New ways and things can be intimidating, especially as we get older, but having an open mindset and learning to adapt can be transformative. The only constant in life is change.
DreamBox interviewer: Agreed — it's a great value. How best do you learn?
Kerry: I don't know what my official learning style is, so to speak, and I'm generally fine with following directions for new things in any format (text, audio, visual). However, I can say that the best way to understand something fully is to teach it. The years I spent teaching at the college level gave me insights that academic learning did not. A college classroom is really an amazing cross-section of learners from all age groups, backgrounds, experiences, and abilities. I've pulled from that experience often over the years while working in edtech. Everything we do at DreamBox, from building lessons to creating/curating content to defining the user experience, is done with students in mind.
DreamBox interviewer: Thank you so much for your time today, Kerry. It was wonderful to learn more about you. The last thing we’d like to ask is, what motivates you?
Kerry: Reading has been such an integral part of my life and identity, and books have brought me such joy. Rereading a favorite book is like revisiting an old friend. It makes me terribly sad to know there are so many people who haven't had that same experience. If I can help just one student be successful in reading and discover the joy of books, I consider that success.