SAN BENITO — With a book published, winning teacher of the year at HESTEC and being inducted into the Universal Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Rick Ramirez has made 2017 his year.
Hissing cockroaches, a snake, a bull frog and several tarantulas line one wall of the San Benito biology teacher’s room.
Every year, one math teacher and one science teacher in the region that stretches from Brownsville to Laredo are chosen as Teacher of the Year at HESTEC.
Rick won this year in the science division.
The Harlingen native started his career as a pre-med student at the University of Texas Pan American when he took a job on campus as a lab instructor.
Teaching came naturally to Rick as he had been heading martial arts classes before.
Rick said teaching his martial arts class is what helped him in his biology classroom.
To Ramirez, biology isn’t something you memorize.
It has real world applications, which is something he wants to relate to his students.
And it is working.
The district received the AP scores and out of Ramirez’s 29 students, 19 passed giving them credit for college, giving Ramirez another win.
In August, Ramirez was recognized by the district convocation for the highest CORE AP passing rate on campus for two years running.
“You’re guiding people you’re going to watch people grow,” Rick said. “I see martial arts and teaching biology as kind of the same thing. You have to push them.”
Rick teaches martial arts classes three times a week, a passion that has earned him Master of the Year and an induction into the Universal Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“I want them to not think it’s just about fighting it’s about being a better person and pushing your limits,” he said.
Rick has been in martial of arts for 23 years and started after seeing his cousin participate.
“It keeps me out of trouble,” he jokes.
During his journey to obtain his fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do, Rick needed to write a thesis.
He entitled it “Lessons to Learn from Breaking Boards,” and wrote about the art of martial arts interwoven with personal stories.
To Rick, it was something very personal.
During his induction into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Rick’s master surprised him with a published version of what he had written.
“He pulled it out and I started crying,” Rick said. “It was really breathtaking and it caught me off guard.”
Rick said 2017 is going to be an impossible year to beat.
“I joke around with my students that it’s all downhill from here,” Rick said. “How am I going to match this year?”