Paying it forward: supporting under­represented students in STEM

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Dixon found a job as an assistant chaplain at the Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, and began teaching there as well. “I’ve always considered my life to be a faith journey,” he says. In fact, he went on to earn a master’s in divinity at the Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and he has been a minister as well as a teacher for the last 20 years. “At Brooks I learned that teaching is my calling,” he says. “As a teacher, I could mentor and support students and pay what I’d received from my teachers forward.” Dixon also earned a PhD in education from Boston College in 2003.

After moving on from Brooks, Dixon taught physics and math at public schools in Newton and then Boston. His goal was to make STEM subjects more appealing to all students, especially Black and brown ones. 

In 2005, Dixon got the opportunity to run Dorchester’s Parkside Christian Academy, where he had been teaching. He and Crystal assumed leadership roles at the school, expanding it from K–8 to pre-K through grade 12. They renamed the school Crossfactor Academy; Dixon served as both a STEM teacher and head of school, and Crystal served as director of administration. They also enrolled their six sons. “The goal was to create a space where students of color would be encouraged and expected to succeed in STEM coursework because the proper scaffolding and rigor would be available to them at every grade level,” he says. “On each and every test score, [Crossfactor students] exceeded expectations outsiders had for them.” 

Crossfactor Academy shut down in 2018, primarily for financial reasons. “It was a great run,” Dixon says. “I know we made a difference in the lives of these kids and their families. That was the hardest part of shutting down—the students and their families.” 

Dixon continues to work toward bolstering education through various efforts both inside and outside of the classroom, including founding the STEM committee of Black Alumni of MIT (BAMIT), which leads BAMIT’s efforts to expand K–12 STEM education for students of color. He also now teaches in the Boston Public Schools at the Dearborn STEM Academy. “We celebrate Pi Day in my classroom,” he says. “I’m committed to being that teacher who advises and encourages kids of color to pursue careers in the science, math, and engineering fields. That won’t ever change. My teachers did the same for me.”


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