Early life and education
Born in the Eastern Townships in Clarenceville, Canada East (now Quebec) in 1862, Derick was educated at the Clarenceville Academy (a Montreal grammar school). She began teaching by the age of fifteen. Derick later received teacher training at the McGill Normal School, graduating in 1881 as a Prince of Wales Gold Medal winner. She then went on to become a school teacher in Clarenceville and Montreal, and later serving as a principal (at the age of nineteen) of the Clarenceville Academy.
In 1889, Derick pursued a B.A. from McGill University, and graduated in 1890, at the top of her class in natural science with first-class honours, the highest GPA (94%) that year, and received the Logan Gold Medal. Her graduating class included two other notable Canadian women: Elizabeth Binmore and Maude Abbott. She began teaching at the Trafalgar Institute for Girls in 1890, while also working part-time as McGill's first female botany demonstrator.
In 1891, Derick began her master's program at McGill under David Penhallow and received her M.A. in botany within four years (1896), while holding two simultaneous jobs. She then attended the University of Bonn, Germany, in 1901 and completed the research required for a Ph.D. but was not awarded an official doctorate since the University of Bonn did not give women Ph.D. degrees at the time.
Derick also studied at Harvard University for three summers, the Royal College of Science, London in 1898, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for seven summers.