Episode #73: Great Minds Don’t Think Alike: Embracing Learner Variability with Nancy Weinstein

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Nancy Weinstein, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mindprint Learning, has an MBA from Harvard Business School with an extensive background in business, including work at Goldman Sachs, The Walt Disney Company Corporate Strategic Planning, Bristol Myers Squibb, and several smaller Internet companies.

Nancy recognizes the challenges students face today, from succeeding at school to managing hectic after-school schedules, to dealing with social media. While we can’t put the genie back in the bottle, she knows that teachers and parents can (must!) help students learn to manage these complex demands. She co-authored a new book, The Empowered Student that we talk about in the podcast. So honored to have a conversation with Nancy. Enjoy!
Your background
I grew up in New Jersey and lived in the same house for 18 years before I went to college in Philadelphia. I started dating my husband in college. We went to the same high school but did not date in high school. He is my co-founder of Mindprint Learning and also the co-founder of my two children. After college, I worked on Wall Street in NY for a couple of years. Then I always wanted to live in California, so I took a job at Disney in their corporate strategic planning group in Burbank, CA. I did that for some time and then because my whole family was back east, I moved back. My family lives in New Jersey outside of Princeton.
What was it like for you as a student?
I was a good student and followed the line. Even though I understood things, I was always stressed. I know now working on Mindprint why. I had a good ability to reason but I didn’t have a very good memory. Studying always took me longer than it felt like it should. I believed that if I didn’t study harder than I would forget on the test. It was so stressful. It didn’t need to be that way.
The reason I became an engineer instead of going to medical school is that I didn’t need to memorize anything. In engineering, every test was open book, open note. It was all about problem-solving. Everything in pre-med was about memorizing (or at least that is how I perceived it). So even though I would have loved medicine, I became an engineer instead because it felt less stressful. In hindsight, if someone had just shown me HOW to study better, I would have done what I really wanted to do — not just what I thought was more achievable.
Retention is all about how we make those connections to things that we know so that we can make what we are learning stick.
Consider students studying history. If we begin by discussing what’s going on today in the world, we make it relevant. We show them why they should care. Then we can compare the similarities or differences to events in history. Students will be more engaged and they will remember more because it’s relevant and it has context.
You and your family
You might say we are all in this together. My experiences with my daughters’ schooling inspired the idea for Mindprint and my husband helped me start the company. He was my #1 supporter getting this company going as a mom with two school-aged kids, and he continues to help me with everything from finance to strategy to legal.

My daughters also play key roles for me. If they weren’t so supportive of my doing this, I really wouldn’t be here. And they also help with the company on a regular basis. A lot of the images you see on our site, my older daughter created. She did almost all the images for our book at age 12. Her strengths are so opposite of mine. She is an amazing designer and I have a terrible time with it. My younger daughter is my “go to person”. If I want to figure out if we should try something new for students, I ask her first. She has this great self-awareness of what will and won’t work for her. She also has great empathy so she senses what will resonate for peers and what won’t.