Cassie Sheets, Executive Director
Cassie Sheets has been an educator for two decades, teaching students from preschool to college. She moved to Montana in 2009, worked in the nonprofit sector, earned a Master's in Sociology from University of Montana, and taught as an adjunct in the department for several years. Then she transitioned to the publishing industry, earning a Master's in Children's Literature, running the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and working for School Library Journal as a teacher educator. She is now working on an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction from University of Montana, which inspired her return to K-12 work as Writing Coaches of Montana's Executive Director in 2020. She is thrilled to support innovative literacy pedagogy fueled by community relationships. She enjoys home life with her school chef husband (Chef Dev), dog (Hygge), cat (Lorax), and chickens (Molly Weasley, Pippi Longstocking, Miss Rumphius, and Princess Dandelion Fire).
Jeanne Wdowin, Flathead Coordinator
Jeanne Wdowin retired from public education after spending 39 years as a classroom teacher. She started at the intermediate elementary level and moved to middle school science, math, and teacher of students in English as Second Language (ESL) classes. She holds a Masters plus a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education from NYS, and Arizona endorsements in ESL and middle school ELA. After leaving the classroom, she worked for 6 years as the district assessment specialist in Tempe, Arizona, K-8 District #3, in the Research, Evaluation & Assessment Department. She knows it’s important to facilitate students’ learning, in order for them to reach their full potential. Currently, and for the past 40 years, she has managed her wood turning artist husband’s business, Natural Nook Wooden Vases. She is passionate about all things natural and can be found selling home grown rhubarb and eggs at the local markets; as well as around the county selling waterproof wooden vases at local art festivals.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Michelle Miewald, President
Michelle Miewald moved to Missoula in 1982 to attend the University of Montana. She has worked for the USDA for 25 years as a legal assistant and for the past 6 years as a Human Resources Specialist. Her children, now grown, both graduated from the Missoula County Public Schools. Michelle began volunteering as a writing coach in 2008 and has served on the board since 2010. She is delighted to see so many community volunteers who are willing to give their time and energy to help young people realize the power of their voices.
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.
Jason Kolberg, Treasurer
Jason Kolberg has lived in Missoula for nearly 40 years after moving from Upstate NY and graduated from Hellgate High School. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from the University of Montana and has worked for Clearwater Credit Union for 29 years in IT, Risk Management, and Data Analysis. He enjoys spending time with his family hiking the Montana wilds or in the backyard when not working.
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.
Rita Braun began working with the Writing Coaches of Montana (WCM) as a coach in 2015 in the Flathead. In 2019 she joined the WCM staff as the Flathead Director, working through the pandemic as WCM developed and rolled out its online coaching program in 2020, then joined the WCM board in June of 2021. Prior to WCM, Rita worked diligently with various entities as a writer, editor, sales rep, and in the life-saving position for indecisive career seekers: waiting tables. Rita's guiding light: do your best, and hang in there! Don't give up!
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.
Jim and his wife retired and moved to Missoula from Baltimore in 2013 to be close to their two grandchildren, both of whom attend an MCPS elementary school. Jim began volunteering with Writing Coaches of Montana in 2014 and joined the Board in July 2019 as the Treasurer. During his 40 year career as a commercial lender, Jim was often frustrated by the limited writing skills exhibited by many young bankers. The Writing Coaches program is an excellent vehicle for helping improve writing skills early in a student’s development, well in advance of the first step of their working career. Jim holds a BA in Economics from Wake Forest University and an MA in Economics from Vanderbilt University.
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.
Stefan Olson recently graduated from the University of Montana with an MA in English Teaching and also holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and a BA in English Writing, History, and Political Science. Stefan joined Writing Coaches of Montana as a Writing Coach and then helped develop WCM's online coaching capabilities before joining the board in June 2021. Stefan is most inspired by WCM's ability to support teachers and by the coaches' commitments to engaging Montana's budding writers. In his spare time, Stefan enjoys reading a good book, gardening, hiking, canoeing, camping and generally enjoying Montana's great outdoors.
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.
After graduating from the University of Montana with a Masters Degree in Guidance and Counseling, Annette and her husband spent almost 30 years working in Washington State. The retired school counselors then returned to Montana, settling in the Bitterroot Valley. Annette has been a writing coach as well as the Ravalli County Program Director. Annette’s professional experience includes K-12 school counseling, mental health counseling, disaster mental health counseling and crisis response team work. “Membership on the Executive Board will allow me to be involved in the development and evolution of the WCM program. That is important to me because I love our students, teachers and volunteers. The whole coaching experience has made me a better person.” During their first 10 years of retirement, the Thomas’ have enjoyed family and most things outdoors, including camping, hiking, fishing, sailing, gardening and traveling.