Writing coaches sought for Col. Falls school program

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Emma Wendt, one of Jennifer Robbins’ students, reads a book in the Columbia Falls Junior High School library last week. Robbins is working to bring writing coaches to the junior high.

If you can write a snappy sentence and would like to help students as well, you just might make a good writing coach.

A grant from the Steele-Reese Foundation will allow the expansion of the writing coaches of Montana program into Columbia Falls this year. The program has helped thousands of students become better critical thinkers, as well as more confident, competent writers.

Writing Coaches currently has programs in the Missoula County Public Schools, Bonner, Clinton and Hellgate Middle Schools, Florence-Carlton Public Schools, Stevensville Public Schools, Hamilton High School, and Whitefish High School and Middle School. In the past 23 years, it has expanded from fewer than 100 coaching sessions to more than 4,000 individual student conferences every year across western Montana.

Columbia Falls Junior High teacher Jennifer Robbins will lead the program in Columbia Falls, with guidance from Brian Schott, who has run the Whitefish chapter for the past two years with support from the Whitefish Education Foundation. Last year, more than 50 volunteers coached nearly 530 Whitefish students in grades 8-12.

Robbins has been teaching seventh- and eighth-grade English at Columbia Falls Junior High School for the past 18 years. She is the recent recipient of a Snapdragon Book Foundation grant, which awarded her $3,000 to spend exclusively on books for her classroom library, one of 10 winners out of almost 600 nationwide applications.

“I believe that books and words build strong bridges between people, and I am excited to help connect student writers in Columbia Falls with community mentors through Writing Coaches of Montana,” Robbins said.

Writing coaches work one-on-one with students through first and second drafts of writing assignments. Coaching schedules are flexible and volunteer time is based on the coach’s availability.

Coaches come from all backgrounds and do not need to have a formal writing background. The most important qualifications are to believe good writing is an essential skill and the ability to relate to young people.

Coaching also connects students with outside community members who bring fresh perspectives and valuable life experience to the classroom.

Community members interested in helping can contact Jennifer Robbins at writingcoachescolumbiafalls@gmail.com or call 249-9567. Professional training will be offered to new coaches on Monday, Oct. 15, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Columbia Falls Junior High School, with ongoing support throughout the school year.

To sign up, go to: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090b4aadac2da5fd0-writing5

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