“If you can get thoughts down on paper clearly, then you can communicate at any level,” Denise Mahrer from the Bitterroot replied when asked why she is committed to volunteering with Writing Coaches. Denise has been a coach since WCM initially started working with schools in Ravalli about six years ago. As a retired English teacher, her input, support, and dedication has been incredibly valuable to the success of our program. She even works with WCM board members to help train new volunteers in Ravalli County.
Denise feels that working one-on-one with students as a coach has helped her achieve a greater level of patience and appreciation for all the different types of kids. She feels that the WCM program is effective because students are working individually with someone who is genuinely interested in their education and what they have to say, but there is also less pressure for the student because their coach doesn’t have to grade their writing. Coaches can truly meet students where they are without any judgement.
Notably, Denise enjoyed working with seniors in Florence on a writing project that was created over the course of an entire school year. It was amazing watching them progress throughout that time period. She says, “Clarifying their writing helps them gain a sense of self and understand what it is they have to say and offer the world.”
Denise loves watching students’ self-esteem grow as they become better writers and communicators. She’s passionate about instilling a love of reading in students as well. Rather than trying to push students to read literature that is traditionally considered to be important or canonical, she encourages them to read about subjects that interest them. She says, “You just have to find the right book for the student.”
Originally, Denise hails from the island of Jersey in the English Channel. Eventually, she moved with her husband to New Jersey where she taught English for thirteen years. Denise has had the opportunity to travel through Europe and North America which has given her a unique perspective when coaching students. Denise is also an avid quilter. She enjoys reading in her free time, and she even dabbles a little in creative writing.
We are so fortunate that Denise is a part of the WCM community! It is through the efforts of volunteers like her that WCM is able to reach so many students.