MT Advocate of the Year

Congratulations to

Sara Cole,
the 2022 Montana Advocate of the Year!


Sara is the Director of Special Programs for Kalispell Public Schools.  For the past five years, she has been responsible for managing multiple special education programs, school psychologists, special education staff and the Systems of Support (SOS) initiative (aka MTSS). When Sara was hired, she seemed to make a very conscious effort to support counselors and the Suicide Prevention Task Force in addition to performing her duties in Special Education services. Sara’s presence, professionalism, experience, passion and ability to lead with empathy helped many begin to move beyond the myths and fears of talking about suicide.
Sara developed the space and time for K-12 counselors to collaborate and learn about recommended best practices for school counselors in suicide prevention, response and after care. Sara always approaches situations with kindness, professionalism and a "people/students first" attitude. She brings a "humanness" to the sometimes automatic processes, systems and roles of the school counselor. She consistently advocates for genuine self-care (more than just suggestions for going on a walk or taking a bubble bath). She has provided opportunities for school counselors to explore compassion fatigue, burnout, overwhelm and some of the other tough topics that come with school counseling/education in general. Bottom line--Sara sees us and let's us know. 

The M
ontana Advocate of the Year Award 
recognizes individuals who contribute to the implementation and improvement of school counseling programs. These individuals demonstrate their belief in and support of school counseling programs that impact school
counselors and their students at the local, state, and/or national level.

Past Advocates of the Year:
  • 2021 - Wendy Hansmann, Hamilton School District, Hamilton
  • 2020- Amy Leary, MT Post Secondary Educational Opportunities Council
  • 2019 - Susan Anderson, Lewis & Clark Elementary, Missoula
  • 2018 - Frenchtown Administration (Jake Haynes, Mark McMurray, Riley Devins, and Aaron Griffin), Frenchtown Schools
  • 2017 - Todd Garrison, Elevate Montana
  • 2016 - Kathy Olson, Billings Public Schools, Billings
  • 2015 - Jennifer Courtney, Big Sky HS, Missoula
  • 2014 - Brian Ayers, Chief Joseph Middle, Bozeman & Deb Black, Skyview High, Billings
  • 2013 - Mary Johnson, Browning Public Schools, Browning
  • 2012 - Heather Davis-Schmidt, Missoula County Public Schools, Missoula
  • 2011 - Barry Grace, Kalispell Middle, Kalispell