BACKGROUND: Quality measures relating to diabetes care in America have not improved between 2005 and 2016, and have plateaued even in areas that outperform national statistics. New approaches to diabetes care and education are needed and are especially important in reaching populations with significant barriers to optimized care. METHODS: A pilot quality improvement study was created to optimize diabetes education in a clinic setting with a patient population with significant healthcare barriers. Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES) were deployed in a team-based model with flexible scheduling and same-day education visits, outside of the traditional framework of diabetes education, specifically targeting practices with underperforming diabetes quality measures, in a clinic setting significantly impacted by social determinants of health. RESULTS: A team-based and flexible diabetes education model decreased hemoglobin A1C for individuals participating in the project (and having a second A1C measured) by an average of -2.3%, improved Minnesota Diabetes Quality Measures (D5) for clinicians participating in the project by 5.8%, optimized use of CDCES, and reduced a high visit fail rate for diabetes education. CONCLUSIONS: Diabetes education provided in a team-based and flexible model may better meet patient needs and improve diabetes care metrics, in settings with a patient population with significant barriers.