About Susan Kruger Winter
“America’s #1 Learning Expert”
Susan Kruger Winter, M.Ed. – Susan is a certified learning specialist and the author of the international best-selling study skills book, SOAR® Study Skills and SOAR® Social-Emotional Learning Skills. She has also written Homework Help for Parents, the #1 best-selling book on literacy, Cue to Reading, and developed the break-through models, The Brain Circuit™ & The ADHD Circuit™. Susan is a Premier Instructor for The Learning Annex in NYC, the Education Expert for ADDitude Magazine, & is the founding CEO of SOAR® Learning, Inc. She was named the top winner of Oakland County Executive’s “Elite 40 Under 40” Award in 2014 and has served on the county’s Workforce Development & Education Roundtable since. Microsoft Partners in Learning University has called her a “Global Expert in Education Innovation.” Her curriculum materials are used by over 4,000 schools across the USA and 40+ countries worldwide. She’s married to a fellow educator (Brian) and mom to two dynamic children with learning disabilities.
The Full Story…
Hi! I’m Susan.
Back in 1928, Walt Disney never would have guessed that the creation of his little mouse, “Mickey,” would lead to his widespread career in the entertainment industry. Likewise, I never would have guessed that my struggles in school and hours of homework fights with my mother would eventually evolve into a successful career. (Mom never would have imagined it, either!)
While I have extensive professional experience and training, my greatest asset as a teacher and “learning coach” is that I was a struggling student for a VERY LONG time. Growing up, I was always the youngest member of my class and struggled in school. I was frequently frustrated with grades that, after spending a lot of time preparing for tests or projects, never seemed to reflect my effort. I often felt frustrated, unmotivated, and frankly… “stupid.”
However, I am living proof that it is possible to get (much) better grades in (far) less time! During my first semester of college, I figured out several strategies that taught me how to study smarter, not “harder.” It may sound like a cliche, but it was very true; I earned a 3.9 GPA that first semester of college.
I was stunned that getting these great grades in college was actually easier than my mediocre grades from high school!
Then, I was angry that nobody ever taught me how to learn! One day, I sat in a student-lounge on campus, fretting about an upcoming project. The “anxiety gremlins” were getting the best of me, until I caught myself. “Wait a minute, this is not how things are, anymore,” I reminded myself. “You no longer have to dread schoolwork. You KNOW how to do this!” But, that’s when the anger flooded my soul…
“Why did I ever have to struggle, in the first place?!?” The “hacks” that transformed my life as a student were so simple, I could have used then as early as 6th, 5th, even 4th grade! Why had nobody ever taught me to how to learn, before?? I don’t know how long I sat with that anger… whether it was two minutes or two hours. But, I will never forget its piercing power! Fortunately, I soon came to my senses.
I recognized that I could not change the past for myself, but I could change the future for others. In that moment, I put a proverbial stake-in-the-ground, committing to get those “skills” in the hands of as many students as I could. I was already enrolled in the college of education, following my life-long passion to be a teacher. That moment simply set the direction of my compass.
About My Work with Study Skills
Since 1996, I have taught thousands of students how to achieve success in school, and discover deep confidence in themselves, while also creating time for fun! I began tutoring individual students in study skills but the demand for this expertise grew, so I created “workshops” to read more students. I used my experience as a teacher, tutor, and of course, as a student, to identify the core strategies students need to be successful in school. My workshops were a great success in my community and rendered a lot of attention from schools, parents, and media. In 2007, with the help of my husband, Brian, a fellow educator and my co-author, we “converted” our study skills workshops into a book and full curriculum. I am astonished that it has remained the best-selling study skills program, in the world, since it was first published. It’s mind-boggling!
We now have programs and resources for schools and families across the country and around the world. Our materials and trainings help:
- Students discover how to develop confidence and be successful in school,
- Families tackle homework/school issues without conflict, and
- Teachers provide tangible, effective, and life-long strategies for their students.
About My Work with Social-Emotional Learning Skills
In 2017, after more than 20 years of coaching students, parents, and teachers about optimal learning skills, I recognized a “calling” to develop a formal curriculum on emotional intelligence (now called “social-emotional skills”). For two decades, we have been navigating a variety of roadblocks, outside of “study skills,” that impede school success. The symptoms could be categorized generally as: students’ lack of motivation, parent-child battles over school-related issues, and general apathy towards teachers, school, and the process of learning.
All of these roadblocks are rooted in emotional barriers.
Every individual situation was colored by unique details, but it was natural –entirely automatic– for us to notice these “root,” emotional barriers and address them before ever teaching a single study skill. Before long, we noticed common patterns and folded various topics of “emotional intelligence” into our: classes, student-sessions, parent-consultations, and teacher-trainings. Over time, we literally wrote hundreds of articles and developed dozens of videos about these topics, publishing them through our curriculum, website, and syndicating to other publications.
In retrospect, creating a social-emotional curriculum should have been obvious years earlier. But, it took two devastating situations, for two different people in my close circle of friends/family, to see the light. Each situation was very different, but they both had one thing in common… a lack of skills to deal with difficult emotions. As a result, one family was destroyed and one life fraught with the gnarly battle of addiction.
It may sound trite to reduce such devastation to a “lack of emotional skills.” But, for both situations, I was in a particularly unique place to know the perspectives of both “sides” of the respective conflicts and it was very clear that both situations were triggered by confusion and anger. (Unfortunately, I did not know about either situation until after the damage was done.) One situation could have been resolved with a little bit of help putting words to a confusing mess of emotions, rather than fully retreating and ending a very long-term relationship. Another situation needed a little more clarity and forgiveness, but the person needing to offer the apology would have been more than willing… if she had only known.
It was -and is- so painful to see how these situations could have been prevented. However, much like my “stake-in-the-ground” moment over study skills, my remorse and helplessness over the pain of my loved-ones kicked me into gear! Together with Brian, a nationally board-certified high school teacher ( and THE teacher his former students always seek for “life” advice after graduation), we crafted the SOAR Social-Emotional Learning Skills curriculum, filling it with all of our hearts, compassion, and soul!
My Life & Family
When I’m not “working,” I love to be on or in the water! (We live in a town with 42 lakes, so access to water is abundant.) Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is my favorite; it’s peaceful and a new adventure every day because the water is always different. I also love dragging my family to “swimming holes,” where we can swim, jump/dive off our boards or, sometimes, knock each other into the water. 😉 In cold weather, we actively enjoy the craft of “hygge“… while I long to get back out on the water.
In 2020, we changed our family’s last name to “Winter.” Brian’s last name was a combination of not one, but TWO slang terms that prevented us from using it professionally. For 21 years, I went by my maiden name, while Brian used his mother’s maiden name. Finally, as 2020 approached and our son was about to get his driver’s license (and wouldn’t mind a date or two ;), we settled on a name that is a nod to Brian’s family name and my Norwegian roots, and finally unifies all of us under ONE name. 🙂