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The Writing Center: About Us

A Brief History of the Writing Center

Writing Center Staff

Krista Hitchcock has worked with young writers in a number of capacities. She began her career teaching English in Edina schools, where she was also a fellow in the Minnesota Writing Project. Since then, she has coached students one on one on the ACT and academic writing and is excited to bring these experiences to the Minnetonka Writing Center. She earned her undergraduate degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and her Masters in English Education from the University of St. Thomas.


Shannon Puechner has served as a writing coach for the past several years at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Writing. In that capacity she worked with students with diverse language backgrounds, writing at all levels in many different subject areas. In addition, she co-taught a seminar for new writing coaches. She earned her undergraduate degree and English education license at Eastern Illinois University, her Master’s in Education at Hamline, and is currently finishing up her Ph.D. in literacy education at the University of Minnesota

The Student Coaches

Who are the writing coaches? 

Thirty-eight teacher-nominated student coaches in grades 10-12 have completed a semester-long course in writing and tutoring. Visit the Writing Center Blog to view profiles of our current student coaches!

What do writing coaches do?

Student coaches work in the Writing Center before and after school, conferencing with students and managing the front desk. They also go into classes to work on writing projects, mentor middle school students, help with enrichment events, and play leading roles major events, like the Minnesota Secondary Writing Centers Summit (

How are writing coaches prepared for writing conferencing? 
Their first year, all tutors take a .5 credit elective class where they:

  • Learn about Writing center theory
  • Observe writing conferences and write reflections
  • Write a narrative about their own literacy development
  • Conduct action research, write a scholarly paper, & present a poster session on a writing center topic of thier choice
  • Visit the University of MN Center for Writing
  • And more!


Interested in becoming a writing coach?

What are the characteristics of an effective writing coach?

  • Pleasant, courteous, welcoming

  • Discrete, confidential

  • Empathetic, an excellent listener

  • Positive attitude

  • Prompt and responsible

  • Flexible, adaptable

  • Non-judgmental

  • Respectful

  • Focuses on the writer first and the writing second

What is the role of an effective student writing coach?

  • To listen to and empathize with the writer.

  • To serve as a practice audience to the student writer.

  • To initiate conversation about ideas with student writers.

  • To provide a safe and supportive environment for student writers.

  • To act as ambassadors for the Writing Center.

As a writing coach, what are your tasks?

  • To help interpret assignments and/or decipher prompts.

  • To provide guidance and sometimes instruction with the writing process.

  • To respond to student writing as a reader.

  • If appropriate, to demonstrate or teach writing strategies student writers.

  • To work on cross-age and enrichment activities throughout the year.

As a writing coach, what aren’t your tasks?

  • To assess, judge, or guess at a grade for a paper

  • To proofread, edit, or fix a paper for the student writer (though you may certainly work with peers on these skills).

  • To critique a teacher or fellow student.

Description of position:

  • Student writing coaches respond to peers’ writing in one-on-one conferences and help with enrichment activities. Coaches also work on projects with middle school and elementary students.
  • Peer coaches serve as “practice audiences” and guides. They ask lots of questions, listen attentively, and provide feedback and ideas. They do not correct, edit, or rewrite papers for students, but rather help student writers do so themselves by demonstrating concepts and working through papers together, offering suggestions and helping writers clarify their ideas.

Time commitment

  • Every Friday during zero hour all year for the first year
  • Sign up for two days a month to consult with writers in the Writing Center.

What you do NOT need:

  • Though you do need to have decent writing skills, you do not need to be an expert in grammar and all forms of writing to be an excellent coach!

Training & Assessment:

  • Student writing coaches will enroll in the elective course Writing Center Seminar I: Theory & Practice for Writing Coaches. This graded, for-credit course will meet one day a week before school (most likely Friday). The course is exclusively for accepted writing coaches, and it does not fulfill any graduation requirements—it is over and above the required 6-period day.
  • Writing Center staff will mentor coaches, conduct on-going training, and observe new student coaches throughout the year.

The benefits:

  • Talking about writing with others will help you understand your own writing process and become a stronger writer yourself.
  • Peer coaches learn from student writers, and they get to play a critical role in learning.
  • Writing coaches make up a strong, purposeful community of mixed-grade students.
  • The Writing Center course will be on your transcript and standout as a unique academic achievement.
  • As a student coach, you’ll strengthen your problem solving, listening, and leadership skills.
  • You will be part of an innovative program that serves all students at MHS

Applications every Spring

  • Every May, students are invited to apply to become writing coaches for the following fall.
  • Interested students will fill out an application and participate in an interview. 
  • Listen to the announcements each May for more details!