WSESD’s Sarah Cole, supporting children who struggle with learning.

June 23, 2020

Sara Cole with her husband, Matt, and their children Gunner and Genevieve.

Teacher Tuesday: WSESD’s Sarah Cole, supporting children who struggle with learning.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Metalworks, a small, family-run company with facilities located in Ludington and Manistee, manufacturing metal office filing systems. Be sure to show your support by liking the Metalworks Facebook page.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

AMBER TOWNSHIP – West Shore Educational Service District school psychologist, Sarah Cole has found a job in her field that she absolutely loves. A 1998 graduate of Ludington High School, Cole attended and graduated from Lake Superior State University in 2002 where she earned a bachelor’s degree. She then received an education specialist in school psychologist degree from Andrews University in 2005.

“I originally became a school psychologist because I had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and there wasn’t a lot that I could do with that,” she said. “I had met a school psychologist and thought that it sounded interesting. I did little more researching about what the role entailed and it seemed like a good fit for me.”

Just finishing her 15 years in education, Cole worked for a few different intermediate school districts in Michigan, before returning back to her home county.

“I worked for Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle ESD for two years, Manistee ISD for two years and then started at West Shore ESD (then, Mason-Lake ISD),” she said. “I have worked with children from birth through age 26. I started my career serving high school and middle schools and now I work primarily with babies and preschoolers.”

Cole has been working for the WSESD for 11 years and said there are times when people don’t always understand fully what she does as a school psychologist.

“A lot of people think my job is the same as a school counselor,” she said. “Most school counselors don’t complete psycho-educational assessments that I do.”

Explaining her job can be a bit difficult at times because school psychologists aren’t usually in the limelight, like a lot of other educators, so many people have no real concept of what their role with the ESD is.

“A school psychologist is an educational detective and has training in mental health, learning and behavior,” she said. “We help schools, teachers and parents find ways to support children and students who struggle with learning. A large part of my current job is evaluating children to see if they are eligible for special education services. I am part of problem-solving teams in almost all of my buildings where we help find ideas for a school building, a classroom or even a specific child or student. I currently serve all the preschools in Lake, Mason, and Oceana counties, Early On (0-3 years old), Franklin Elementary, Gateway to Success Academy and the ESD classrooms at our main center.”

Working with a large variety of children, families and educators has been one of Cole’s favorite thing about her job.

“My job has allowed me the opportunity to work with a very diverse group of educators and children,” she said. “One of my favorite things about working in education is definitely how much educators care about the children they are supporting. I have worked in at least ten different school districts and probably 20 or more different school buildings. It is across the board, from the Early On staff to the staff working in school buildings. You will never meet another group who cares more about their job, helping children and students be successful, than educators.”

With a lack of school psychologists across the country, Cole urges people who are deciding their career path to take a look at educational psychology.

“School psychology is a great career and there is a nationwide shortage right now, so there is a really good job market,” she said. “If you like problem-solving and working with a wide range of people, this might be a good career for you. If students want to find out more about it, they can check out At West Shore ESD, we encourage students that are interested in educational careers to talk with us about what we do and if they are interested, job shadow one of our school psychologists.”

With a non-traditional classroom career, Cole has caseloads in many different districts. With COVID-19 coronavirus forcing educational resources into distant learning environments, Cole said she has had to make many different changes to continue to meet the needs of students.

“The building closure has definitely posed some challenges for my job,” she said. “There is a lot of testing that has to be done in person, so we have to wait until school is in person to complete it. I have been meeting with families virtually to collect some information. I have had a couple families that I have only met through Google Meet. I can’t wait to meet them in person, video-chatting with a three-year-old has not been the best way to get to know them.”

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