We had the good fortune of connecting with LaTanya Brooks and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi LaTanya, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I always wanted to write a children’s book. The big question was what I would write about that could entertain, inspire and educate young minds. Well, I was stuck at that very question. There was a series of events that led to making my dream a reality. I was teaching my 2nd and 3rd grade students how to craft a letter. The assignment was to write a letter to their favorite author. A list of criteria included introducing themselves, stating the name of the book and their favorite part in it and asking the author a question that could not be answered by looking them up in Google. A few weeks later, the letters, trinkets and signed books were pouring in from authors such as Eric Carle, Rachel Renée Russell, Amanda Knoll and Derek Munson–not generic form letters. The authors answered my students’ questions directly, as well as offering words of encouragement! My kids were completely star struck. The truth is, so was I, but I played it cool. A month later, I was administering the dreaded STAAR (state mandated) test. You know the one where teachers or forbidden to do anything short of breathing while a student is testing. Yep, that one. I was sequestered in a room with a student from 9 am until 3 pm. Since, I am not allowed to write, I usually fill the time making my grocery list, daydreaming or calculating my weekly budget in my head–while, of course, actively monitoring. This time was different. I had been actively involved in bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education to my school and the district. I actually drafted the first copy of my first book in my head, “Marisol: A Little Girl with a Big Dream.” Marisol supports the idea that girls can be anything they want to be while introducing STEM concepts. Later I decided that I didn’t just want to create a book, I wanted to create a brand–and not just a brand, but also a business. From there, Grow with STEM was born. Now I enjoy participating in book events, children’s festivals and speaking engagements. My next quest is to start an online or summer STEM program in order to prepare children for sustainable careers.  

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
One of the proudest moments was when I visited a school in the neighborhood in which I grew up. The schools and the neighborhood had limited resources. The students were struggling with reading as the teachers worked feverishly all year to bring the students’ reading levels up. At the end of the year, the students exceeded expectations and were rewarded. I went to the school and served them breakfast in their PJ’s. Afterwards, they all gathered on the floor as I read from my book, congratulated them and gave them words of encouragement. They were in awe when I told them that I grew up in that neighborhood. Their eyes shined brightly, and mouths dropped. They couldn’t believe it! They wanted my autograph. There I stood, little me, feeling like Beyoncé had just come to their school. Okay, that was my 5 minutes of fame. But it was then that I realized that I can use my voice, along with my books, to be an inspiration to kids. I am a model of what some of them could become. Just like them, my schools were poor, and I was sometimes looked down on. I refused to let that get me down and always strived for success. My inclination for all thing’s technology increased as I grew older. I worked 40 to 50 hours managing a mechanic shop while I was in college; which left little time for sleep or rest. It was hard and many times I was limited on how many hours I could take in school. As a result, I was in school for a long time. I received an Associate in Arts degree and continued to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Business Computer Information Systems. Later I became a teacher, and while teaching, I decided to go back to school for a Master of Business Administration Management degree. This was quite a challenge as I had a 7-year-old son, a newborn baby and my mom had just had an aneurysm and needed to be cared for. I was faced with the conundrum of taking care of my mom and kids or going back to school. Because of online educational opportunities, I realized that I could do both. Sharing my struggles is important because I want students to know that many of them may have obstacles; but with hard work comes success, and when life happens, take a moment to breathe, and most importantly, never stop learning. Before leaving, I personally shook hands and hugged each student while handing them a swag bag that included, trinkets, cards with uplifting messages and a “Dream Big” message bracelet. I told each student to wear the bracelet as a reminder to dream big. 

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
The Boardwalk at Towne Lake is one of my favorite hangouts where I enjoy live entertainment and lake-side dining.  For adventure, iFly Indoor Sky Diving always promises to be exhilarating and fun. For family fun, Discovery Green is an urban park in Houston that family and friends come to unwind and spend quality time. Like the boardwalk, there are amazing attractions such as art exhibits, live music and other city events. Other local attractions include the Galleria, the Waterwall, the Aquarium restaurant, the Museum District and the Downtown Historic District of Market Square in Houston.  

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a shout out to my kiddos–the students at Wilson Montessori School. I have had the pleasure of teaching the most precious, talented, lovable kids on this earth. They are truly my inspiration. Their excitement for learning spills over onto me, making me want to be better for them. In fact, my story ideas derive from the conversations and moments they share with me in the classroom. Also, I don’t know where I would be without my daughter Cameron and son Cristopher who thinks of me as “supermom”. They give me strength and lift me up, making me feel that there is nothing I can’t achieve.

Website: www.growwithstem.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/latanyabrooks_growwithstem/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/latanyabrooks/
Twitter: @growwithstem.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.latanya.brooks and https://business.facebook.com/TanyaBrooksBooks/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtP336rxHeC0bkyKC0U7deA

Image Credits
Cam Sam Productions

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