The Squad at our annual retreat in Prescott, Arizona.

Educator #squadgoals

Melissa Girmscheid Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Mentoring, Teacher Leadership

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My school has this fantastic tradition in that we start each school year with a staff retreat. We get together to chat, for some friendly competitions, to share a meal together and get out of the early August Phoenix heat. It’s a great way to catch up, to get to know that teacher down the hall that I never get a chance to talk to, or meet the newest members of our campus family. We have, no joke, the best retreat planning committee in the state.

The Squad at our annual retreat in Prescott, Arizona.

The Squad at our annual retreat in Prescott, Arizona.

I can truly say that my coworkers are one of the best parts of my job, second only to the students themselves. During tough times they have been by my side to offer words of encouragement or three magical words, “Let’s get coffee.” When one of us celebrates a win, we all celebrate, and when one needs help, we will all rally behind them. We are truly #squadgoals.

Every educator needs their squad.

It’s no secret that educators experience high levels of stress. Studies have even found a correlation between teacher stress levels and student behavior and academic performance.[1] Finding a squad of fellow educators who can help manage this stress and provide healthy outlets could therefore improve classroom performance. Come to my campus any afternoon and you can find the workout crew doing just that in one area of the school. Join us for a Friday night football game and the educator squad-only end zone rivals the student section for enthusiasm.

My monthly Dungeons and Dragons squad (that’s right, I’m Stranger Things-level cool) is my regular outlet. No work conversations, just relationship-building and some minor battles with evil creatures over a potluck of snacks. We will talk about this monthly gathering all month, we look forward to it that much. This fellowship carries over onto the school campus, though, and makes us a more effective team.

According to the Learning Policy Institute, the average cost to recruit, hire, and train one new teacher is over $20,000.[2] This makes retaining quality teachers a financial win for schools and districts. Having my campus squad has kept me there despite some very difficult years.

This year, I started the #FirstDay back to work by spending some time with the newest members of our squad, our new teachers. We bonded over lunch and initiated them into the squad by getting as many to the staff retreat as we could, some by simply saying, “What’s your address? I’m picking you up.” Educators can rally behind one another by offering friendship first and building relationships that make professional collaboration easier later.

When I greeted my students on their first day this month, I had my squad in mind. Because they support me and lift me up, I wanted the same for my kids. We spent the first class period bonding over games of cards. The only instructions were to teach one another a game and to have fun. Just like us adults, our kids need to find their squad.

My students bonded over card games on their #FirstDay.

My students bonded over card games on their #FirstDay.



[1]Berdik, Chris. “Fighting Teacher Stress.” Future of Learning, The Hechinger Report,

[2]“What’s the Cost of Teacher Turnover?.” Learning Policy Institute,


I am a passionate advocate for physics education. This is my eleventh year of teaching high school students about the world around them through the study of physics and I carry this passion to my secondary job developing and leading Computational Modeling in Physics First with Bootstrap workshops. I am a Master Teacher Policy Fellow with the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 2019, I worked with a team of Arizona physics superstars to successfully lobby for ongoing education funding for STEM and CTE teachers. My goal is to ensure every student in Arizona has access to high-quality physics education. I am grateful to the Arizona K12 Center for their support during my National Board Certification process and am paying it forward as a district Candidate Support Provider and new teacher mentor. I believe in the power of Modeling instruction, student-centered learning, and the Five Core Propositions.

Comments 2

  1. Post
    Melissa Girmscheid

    Love it! I got into D&D after my son started playing it in our school Tabletop Club. It’s such a great creative outlet and a wonderful opportunity for team building.

  2. Donnie Dicus

    It sounds like your school and principal have learned a valuable lesson. The job and the location can be replaced but you cannot replace a great team. People stay in careers because of the people they work with. Do y’all have any openings? I like Dungeons and Dragons!

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