For the past 25 years, Deirdre Ricketts has taught fifth-grade science to inquisitive young scholars in HISD. It’s something that she’s passionate about and now, she’s being recognized for it.

At a recent Houston Astros game, Rickets and nine other K-12 teachers received the Honeywell STEM Teacher Award and $2,000 in cash. The presentation by Honeywell was in conjunction with the Astros Foundation, led by Paula McCann Harris.

Deirdre was one of several teachers recently honored by the Astros Foundation.

As the lead science teacher (#DreamSTEAM) who runs the science lab at Lulu M Stevens Elementary, Ricketts’ passion for making science enjoyable for 5th graders in public school is to be commended. She shares with the Defender why that’s important and how parents can ignite a love of science in their children.

Defender: Tell us about the award from the Houston Astros. 

Deirdre Ricketts: This award came from the power of social media. One of my Facebook friends saw the passion I had for teaching over the years, how I am always advocating for STEM and nominated me for the award. I was shocked to learn I’d won.

Defender: One of the reasons you were honored was because of your commitment to teaching. What makes it something that you’re passionate about? 

Ricketts: It’s my why. In America, we have the best chance to make the next generation better…I just found my calling. I can’t explain it. When you are surrounded by 30 children, class period after class period, who, some of them want to learn, some of them don’t, you understand why you’re there. They really just want a safe, secure place. They want to be fed, they want to be loved, and they want to feel secure and safe. And then on top of that, you give them the tools which they can use to better themselves and you see that light turn on. That’s your why. Education is their superpower.

Defender: What do you tell parents and students who say “I’m not good at science and math and STEM?” How can we ignite that love in our children?

Ricketts: It’s very easy because science is intuitive. You come out of the womb wanting to discover the world. It is probably the best and the easiest thing to teach in elementary school. Children love hands-on. They discover new things every day. Sometimes they think I’m doing magic and they don’t realize that it’s science. And I have to bridge that gap. Children are innately scientists. And when parents understand that, and they don’t need a bunch of money or a bunch of know-how or to be engineers themselves to get their children involved in science, it makes a difference.

Parents could take their child to the museum. Make sure you go to your child’s school and see what they’re doing in STEM. As you are cooking and making dinner, have your child be by your side because food science is science too. [With] botany, I learned about insects when I was in the backyard with my dad and we were watching meal worms grow. That’s metamorphosis right there. So there are everyday tangible things that you can do with your child at home.

Defender: Though you are a natural at teaching, it wasn’t your first choice? 

Ricketts: I was a history major. Then I was going to go to law school, or work in medicine but those things just didn’t work out. Whenever you start trying different things and you try hard and it doesn’t work out, ask yourself, “What am I good at? What’s my gift? What can I do? What’s my purpose?” I still love history. But what I do now is hopefully ignite and engage children so that they can be the problem-solvers in the future. That they can discover the next cure, the next innovation and really contribute to what humanity is all about.