Department of Educational Psychology
Growing up, many young girls dream of being ballerinas or princesses. But not Suzanne Winter. Before she was eight years old she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up: a teacher.
“It wasn’t because I liked school, it was the opposite,” she said. “I was very bored in school and can remember by fourth grade I would make notes in the margin of my notebook about how I would have taught the lesson to make it more interesting.”
Winter’s childhood dream of becoming an educator came to fruition: she has spent a total of 28 years in the field teaching, researching and writing. Winter, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at San Antonio's (UTSA) College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), received her B.S. and teaching credentials at Southwest Texas State, now known as Texas State University-San Marcos. After graduating, she taught kindergarten before going on to receive her master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, Language and Learning Disabilities at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. She started working at A&M as an adjunct professor, and while in that position, she attended a presentation by Dr. Joe Frost of The University of Texas at Austin.
“I was so taken aback by his presentation, I went up to him after and said, ‘I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I would like to come work with you,’” Winter recalls. “And a couple of years later I showed up on his doorstep, and said, ‘Here I am!’”
The two years Winter spent getting her doctoral degree were challenging, and for more than just the class schedule. A single parent at the time without any means, she rented a “dank and dirty” apartment without any furniture except a crib for her daughter. Winter slept on a foam mat on the floor for those two years and she would find time to study when her daughter was asleep.
“It wasn’t easy,” Winter said.
After completing her doctoral degree in Curriculum & Instruction, Early Childhood, Winter came to UTSA in 1982 as a visiting professor of Education, and then as an assistant professor in 1983. But Winter decided to take an eight-year break from teaching to raise her family.
“There was no FMLA and I gave up my position not knowing if I was going to come back,” she recalled. “I am glad I did that, and I ended up coming back as an adjunct.”
Winter said she wanted to do full time again, and was told by some that she had been gone too long, it was impossible, and she would never do it. But she did.
“Having people tell me I can’t do something is like waving a red flag in front of a bull because I love a challenge,” she said with a smile.
Winter regained full-time status in the early 1990’s and has seen the campus grow from just a few buildings to its current size.
“There have been so many changes here at UTSA since then,” Winter said. “One big change has been technology. It was a much slower pace around here because it took you a whole day to get one memo out. By the time you hand wrote it, gave it to the secretary, and then she had it back to you to correct, the day was over.”
In her early years at UTSA, Winter thought she would eventually move to a more research-orientated institution. But as the university grew and expanded, Winter was able to perform the high-quality research and conduct large-scale studies that she never imagined would be possible when she started working at UTSA.
“And now, I feel like I have had the chance to do everything I wanted to,” she said. “I have written books, done large-scale research studies in early childhood, taught a variety of classes across the college…so, you know, I feel like I have had a long and very satisfying career here at UTSA.”
As Winter enters her retirement, she is unafraid. She has a long list of things to do, including spending time with family and friends, consulting, mentoring and working on writing projects.
“It will be nice to be able to stop and smell the roses,” she said. “I am looking forward to it.”