Building A Winning Team!

Dr. Austine Etcheverry Uncategorized

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team-386673_640I’m sure I’m not alone in the belief that my school team is the best. I know many of you would look at the team of people you work with and wouldn’t want any other group of educators. I’m no different. But we didn’t get here by chance. It isn’t enough to hire the right people. Yes, that matters! But it’s not everything. I have done so many little things over the years as the administrator at my school to make sure we are winning!

Here are 5 strategic decisions that have allowed me to build a fantastic group of educators on my campus.

  1. Their strengths are my weaknesses.

I spend countless hours reflecting. I reflect not just on my strengths, or the day-to-day things that I want to change based on an awful decision made the day before. I reflect on my weaknesses so that when I have a team member leave and I need to hire someone, I know what I need on my team. I want someone’s strengths to bridge the gap, not just in my areas of weakness, but my teams. We are strong together, and over the years, our team has been able to fit together like a puzzle because no two people have skill gaps in the same area in the same way. I am strategic in who I bring to my team.

  1. I don’t hire ‘yes’ people.

Yes, people don’t push back when something happens. I want to be sure that people feel 100% comfortable pushing back on my policies, systems, and decisions. That is what makes me stronger. I know I am going to have to answer to my staff, and that they are not going to say yes if it is a bad idea. They push me to ensure that I’m making the best decisions for students and staff. They question me, which allows me to make sure that I’m square in my thinking and that I am solid in my decisions, but I also know that we can work through anything. So, when they are questioning, asking, or don’t feel comfortable, they will say something to work through it.

  1. No, take backs! Coach up not out

Once I hire someone, they are my staff for life. I want to be sure they have the skills, training, and needs to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, staff have moved on for various reasons, and as I look back, I know I could have done a better job coaching some of them. I would never say anything different. My goal is to make space and opportunity for anyone on our team, once hired, to step into the best they can be.

  1. Give them permission

My staff has permission for all kinds of things. They have permission to feel passionate about the work they do. They can try new things, research new strategies, bring in new ideas. They can try something and fail. That is okay. I have permitted them to live every day like today is a new day. They have permission to suggest new techniques; we can adopt a curriculum, read new books for our book study, and have discussions. I give them permission to vent, problem-solve, and think of new solutions to things that we are facing. They have permission to live in an educational world where trial and error, science experiments, and education is curriculum, high-yield strategies, and passion.

  1. Conflict resolution starts with me.

When there is a problem that our team is facing, we face it head-on. We don’t beat around the bush; we don’t tiptoe on eggshells. We talk about; we work it out, come to a collective agreement, and move forward. There is no room, time, or allowances for catty behavior. When we disagree, we disagree with each other and in a professional way. Then we find a way to come together as a team and support one another.


I’m sure there are other things I do to have the strong team I do; I know these 5 things make a world of difference. In the end, we can do incredible things for our community and the students who attend our school. What do you do to have an incredible team for students?


I started my educational career as a 1:1 paraprofessional for a student who was blind and had a cognitive impairment. After this amazing opportunity, I decided teaching was my passion. In 2007 I became a certified special education teacher and taught 5th – 8th grade resource. Throughout my career in education, I have held various leadership roles such as a technology coach, an exceptional needs coach and an IEP coordinator. Three years ago, I decided to begin pursuing my National Board Certification and was fortunate enough to achieve in December 2018. I currently have the privilege of being the principal in the Avondale Elementary School District at a school for students with an emotional disability. I have my own social media company where I write and create dental blogs. I have also had the honor of publishing articles in a dental magazine as well as published a young adult science fiction series. In December 2018, I became a certified yoga instructor and recently completed my Doctorate in Education Leadership and Administration from Aspen University.

Comments 3

  1. Melissa Girmscheid

    I work as part of a program within a school now and one thing I love is that we are not shy about voicing our appreciation. It is extremely uplifting just to get a reminder that someone notices your hard work.

    1. Austine Etcheverry

      I was very happy to read your comment to my blog. I think that we often forget how much appreciation is needed, and is an easy way to let people around us know that we notice the hard work they put in to doing the job. A simple, thank you for staying late and grading papers so you’re prepared for students can go a long way. But missed opportunities often compound other problems in our culture. I always say, build your culture, and you’ll build a winning school for students.

  2. Caitlin Gawlowski

    I think it is so important to have some people on staff that are not exclusively “yes people”. While it is great to have people who are willing to buy in to ideas, it is important to hear the concerns or issues that come up before, during, or after implementing an idea or strategy at school. Every idea does not work for every site, so I am glad that you are willing to listen to your staff as they share their experiences.

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