Educator, mom, troop leader, and all-around G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ powerhouse Sarah Sartor from Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pines is no stranger to unleashing girls’ greatest potential.
An eighth-grade language arts teacher in Surprise, Arizona, Sarah has also taught sixth and fourth grades and is in her fifth year leading her daughters’ (nine-year-old Kayla and seven-year-old Kaydence) troop. Sarah’s Girl Scout volunteer journey began with her girls as Daisies in a small six-girl troop, which has since grown into a robust troop of 14 girls, ranging in age from six to nine—nice!
As a child, Sarah was also a Girl Scout and vividly recalls unforgettable days at camp learning all about archery and horseback riding. Her troop leader was a teacher, too! Sarah feels it’s important for educators to volunteer with Girl Scouts because they’re able to take the work they already do in the classroom every day to the next level.
“I am a teacher because I love kids and I love learning,” she explained. “I am a Girl Scout leader because I believe it's important for girls to know their worth and to develop leadership skills. I feel that my reach in the classroom is limited to building educational relationships and having experiences in the classroom. With Girl Scouts, however, I have the opportunity to develop different types of relationships with girls in my troop, and I get to see them grow beyond the nine months I generally spend with students in my classroom.”
For Sarah, being a teacher and an educator means stretching her knowledge and experience to a whole new level of impact. Because being a teacher makes her a better leader, and being a leader makes her a better teacher—talk about a match made in help-girls-SHINE heaven!
“In the classroom, we talk about having a ‘teacher toolbox’ full of strategies to make sure that our students have a safe environment to take risks in and to be engaged in new learning experiences,” she said. “I often find myself using these strategies with my troop or my knowledge about child development to make decisions about how to best manage dealing with certain behaviors among the girls.”
And with the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, Sarah is glad to see Girl Scouts put a spotlight on STEM careers and encourage girls to participate in related activities. She also believes Girl Scouts gives girls leadership and entrepreneurial opportunities in a unique girl-only, girl-led space that they could otherwise miss out on.
“My girls love to run their cookie business and make decisions about how to spend or save their earnings and lead meetings,” she said. “All of the girls in my troop constantly surprise me with their demonstration of leadership skills. I feel that this is a good reminder that all students will [become leaders] if you just let them!”
Moreover, Sarah says she appreciates the ready-made nature of Girl Scout programming, like the structured troop meeting plans she has access to as a leader. They are easy to follow and provide guidance but also leave room to customize a meeting or activity to her troop’s particular interests and needs.
Sarah encourages other educators to volunteer with Girl Scouts because of the long-lasting friendships they’ll develop with other adults who share the same vision for girl leadership. Throughout her years as a Girl Scout volunteer, she has also found immense value in participating in fun, hands-on training and experiences that have gone on to influence her teaching philosophy for the better.
“[Being a troop leader] has been an amazing experience,” Sarah said. “I cherish the memories that I get to make with my own daughters and our troop. I haven't had the opportunity to have girls in my troop and in my classroom at the same time, but that would definitely be a magical experience!”