Writing Coaches of Montana is a community-based group of 300+ volunteers who donate their time to help students in the Montana public schools with their classroom writing assignments.



Michelle Miewald, President


Linda Whittlesey, Vice-President

Linda Whittlesey came to Montana via Los Angeles, where she built a career as a Sound Editor on feature films. Her children attended MCPS schools, and she has been a strong supporter and volunteer in our public schools since her family’s arrival in 1999.  Her background in children’s theatre has proven to be an asset in working with students through WCM.  Linda now operates a small nightly rental business in Rock Creek and is a licensed massage therapist.  


Catherine Filardi, Secretary

Catherine Filardi is a grant-writer, editor, biologist (in a former life!) and University of Montana writing tutor. She has lived in Missoula since 2005 and has two children in Missoula County Public Schools. Catherine first volunteered with Writing Coaches of Montana in 2014 and joined the board in 2015. She believes deeply in promoting community involvement in public education and the power of providing individualized and personal feedback to students of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels during the writing process.


Valeri Saffer, Treasurer

Valeri Saffer received her MBA from the Wharton Business School and spent her career in healthcare administration, managing various hospitals and physician practices in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine and Montana. She retired in 2016 as the CEO of the Western Montana Clinic in Missoula. She has been on the Board of the Writing Coaches of Montana for the past two years and greatly enjoys continuing to work with the high school and middle school students and coaches as much as she can.

Beverly Chin

Beverly Ann Chin, Ph. D., is Chair of the English Department, Director of the English Teaching Program, and Director of the Montana Writing Project at The University of Montana. With over 40 years of teaching experience, Beverly is a highly respected leader in literacy standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. She has served as President of the National Council of Teachers of English and as Board Member on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She was the Senior Project Consultant for the 2011 Writing Framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress –the Nation’s Report Card--and reviewed the Montana Common Core Standards. An author and editor of numerous textbooks, Beverly is an AP English Literature & Composition consultant and an Expert Panelist for NBC News Learn web-based resource, The Parents’ Toolkit.


Sarah Aswell

A graduate of the University of Montana’s creative writing graduate program, Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer and comedian who has been involved with Writing Coaches of Montana since 2010 and a board member since 2016. Her writing has appeared in publications like The New Yorker, USA Today, The Advocate, MAD Magazine, National Lampoon, and McSweeney’s, and she’s a currently a contributing writer and Forbes and Scary Mommy. She was also recently named the Best Undiscovered Comedian in Montana by Thrillist. She has two young daughters and a husband who is also a writer. 

Heather Davis-Schmidt

Dr. Heather Davis Schmidt is Superintendent of Whitefish School District. Heather believes engaging students in directing their own learning provides the greatest inspiration for developing our next generation. In her fourth year at Whitefish, Dr. Davis Schmidt served as a teacher, building-level leader, and central office administrator in Missoula County Public Schools from 2002-2015. Her husband Matt and three children, Megan, Cole and Macy, enjoy skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort and water sports on Placid Lake. Dr. Davis Schmidt earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Colorado College. She holds a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and a Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Montana. Go Griz!


Bethanie Walder 

Bethanie Walder is the Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration, where she guides the organization in its work to advance the science, practice and policy of ecological restoration. She has more than 20 years’ experience in environmental conservation, restoration and education. She has also worked as an organizational development, strategic planning and natural resources management consultant.  Communicating through writing has been imperative throughout her career, and she sees writing skills as a key building block for academic and professional success. She loves working with middle and high school students to boost their confidence and skills through Writing Coaches.

Nancy Singleton 

Nancy Singleton is a retired public school educator having worked for 28 years in middle and elementary schools, most recently as a principal at Hellgate Elementary School District in Missoula. During the last year of my tenure at Hellgate Elementary, our school was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, a distinction for demonstrating improvement in student achievement. As a teacher and administrator, she knows the importance of community involvement in our public schools and building significant relationships with students. Writing Coaches of Montana allows coaches to do both in a meaningful way.  After volunteering with Writing Coaches for one year, she joined the board in 2016 and continues to enjoy time spent as a volunteer coach. Retirement allows her the freedom to participate in the Missoula community in new ways and more frequent visits to her children and grandchildren who live out of state.


Neil Massey

Born and raised in Montana's Bitterroot Valley, Neil Massey feels most comfortable in the West. After teaching for several years in California and Oregon, he returned to join the English Department in Hamilton High School where he first encountered the Writing Coaches of Montana. Currently he teaches AP Literature and Composition and Film Studies. Neil participated in scoring the Montana University System Writing Assessment (MUSWA), which inspired him to co-author the Hamilton School District Writing Assessment. Because of his participation in the Montana Writing Project, he is an enthusiastic supporter of writing across the curriculum. Most weeknights, you can find him working to complete his Masters in Curriculum and Instruction; on the weekends he is most likely crafting cocktails at Westslope Distillery.



Diane Benjamin