Focus on partnerships: King-Chávez Academy of Excellence

Building a Culture of Literacy in a Holistic Way

Anna Halat, King-Chávez Academy of Excellence
Morgan Appel, director, UC San Diego Extension's Education Department

Ms. Anna Halat is a mathematics and science teacher at King-Chávez Academy of Excellence, a K-8 charter school located on the campus of the former Memorial Junior High School in the Logan area of San Diego. As a cornerstone in the academic mosaic that is King-Chávez, Ms. Halat is part of a school-wide effort to create a cross-curricular culture of literacy, where the entire faculty is undertaking the Department’s Reading and Literacy Added Authorization/Reading Instruction Certificate as a dedicated cohort. Online coursework at King-Chávez is augmented by the synergistic work of faculty and community, as well as supplemental trainings in the neuroscience of teaching and learning and differentiated instruction.

Anna, please tell us a bit about the unique way that the Academy of Excellence has approached building a culture of literacy, and why — in your belief — it is important that every member of the faculty participates.

The staff at King-Chávez Academy of Excellence decided to build a culture of literacy through professional development and truly being life-long learners. We are all becoming reading and literacy specialists by the end of school year. I believe that it is extremely important to have each staff member be a part of this work. We are able to build a cohesive environment for our students and we are able to work together to make sure our students are truly receiving the best education. This being my first year at King-Chávez Academy of Excellence, I am thankful to be a part of this wonderful staff. In the years I have been teaching, this is the first time that I’ve been a part of group of people willing to put in the extra work. It is a joy to see how each staff member understands what we are doing and how it benefits our school culture, our families—and most importantly our students.

Please explain how the UC San Diego Extension training has impacted you and the Academy in building a culture of literacy and academic achievement.

Being a ‘math and science’ person I have always felt less comfortable with reading, writing and literacy. I have found a sense of confidence in the strategies and knowledge I am already using but also finding excitement with the new strategies and knowledge I can use within my classroom to enhance my instruction. We are only a couple classes into the program but I am proud to say that our academy is truly headed in the right direction and now with even more knowledge and cohesiveness we will be able to impact the lives of our students even more. Our excitement for the endless possibilities is only helping to build a culture of excitement surrounding literacy.

If there is anything else you would like us to know about your work or about the Academy?

As teachers we wear so many hats and at times feel overwhelmed. Having this opportunity to participate in lifelong learning is only going to help take our students to the next level. Instead of having students two, three even four grade levels below grade level, I know building a true culture of literacy will help get our students to where they should be and beyond. Working in a low-income school with many English Learners, people may think it is impossible to help students rise above grade level. Thankfully I work with amazing colleagues who do not listen to these statistics, but rather find ways to make each and every student feel empowered to do his or her best.

For more information about the Reading and Literacy program at UC San Diego Extension, please click here or contact Morgan Appel at

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