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NASBLA announces the 2021 Western Region Educator of the Year

By Taylor Matsko posted 07-07-2021 10:13 AM


NASBLA announces the 2021 Western Region Educator of the Year

Sara Smith, of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), has been named the 2021 Western Region Educator of the Year.

Smith assumed the role of boating education coordinator for the state of Montana in 2018. She seamlessly transitioned to her new role as a boating educator and immediately started expanding Montana’s Recreational Boating Safety (RBS) education program with new and innovative ideas.
Sara Smith - MT
Smith has improved Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s (FWP) boating education social media presence by overcoming obstacles and creating interesting and relevant content. She wanted to create boating safety videos, but was unable to secure time in the agency video shop. Rather than abandoning the video concept, Smith chose to improvise. She shot, produced, edited, and posted multiple videos with her smart phone and other video devices. Not only are these videos well-made and informative, but also are an excellent example of the dedication and problem-solving approach Smith brings to the Montana RBS program.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all in-person education programs, Smith effortlessly changed stride to continue educating. She amplified social media output on all department platforms, increased radio interviews and created additional videos. One video that she made and posted to the agency website prior to the 4th of July weekend received over 10,000 views.

Smith has been instrumental in helping FWP attain recreational boating safety program goals. She volunteered to take the lead in overhauling the Montana boating regulations to make them more user-friendly and cost-effective. To do this, Smith organized and led a multi-divisional working group to analyze and develop better content to update the usability of the regulations. The resulting improvement in Montana’s boating regulations will be enjoyed for many years. Smith assumed an equally effective role in helping the boating program update and revamp the agency website. She also provided invaluable information and support for legislative testimony and administrative rulemaking.

Smith has an exceptional ability to develop positive relationships with other agencies and organizations to benefit RBS education. In 2019, Smith created a partnership between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI). She worked with these partners to create exportable age-appropriate educational content for Montana schools. This educational program is organized into modules that are taught each day during safe boating week. Her partnership with OPI was critical because OPI was able to make this program available to every school in Montana. Because of Smith’s efforts, the boating safety message has reached thousands of school-aged students across the state.

In 2020, Smith established an excellent partnership with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). FWP and DPHHS worked together on a public messaging campaign focused on boating safety and drowning awareness. These safety messages transmitted across the state through radio, television and social media, reaching thousands of Montanans. This partnership is ongoing and will positively affect boating and water safety in Montana for years to come.

Smith exemplifies the virtues of public service and is a true RBS professional. Her enthusiasm, energy and innovative ideas have brought recreational boating safety education to new frontiers in Montana. Congratulations, Sara Smith!


Generously sponsored by Fresh Air Educators, and Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc., the Pamela S. Dillon Boating Educator of the Year Award was launched by NASBLA in 2011 to recognize those who go above to engage students and boaters, raise awareness, and make boating education initiatives relevant, thorough and exciting.

National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is a national nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety. NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories. We offer a variety of resources, including training, model acts, education standards, publications and more. Through a national network of thousands of professional educators, law enforcement officers and volunteers, we affect the lives of nearly 85 million American boaters.