Sense of family and community nurtures culture of reading

Story by Art Garcia

Growing up around Fort Worth ISD educators left an impression on Charla Staten that she continues to pass forward. As the principal at Christene C. Moss Elementary, Mrs. Staten’s perspective on her community and students comes from a place of home.

“I knew that I wanted to make an impact within FWISD,” Mrs. Staten said. “I remember many times sitting at the football games and track meets with my dad at Northside High, helping my mom with her classroom at Diamond Hill Elementary, and assisting my sister with her lessons at West Handley Elementary. Those memories made such an impact on my decision to come back to FWISD after graduating college.”

Mrs. Staten is a proud product of FWISD having attended Greenbriar Elementary School, Glencrest and Forest Oak Middle Schools, and O.D. Wyatt High School. Her professional career spans 18 years in the District at two schools, including the last 11 at Moss. She spent seven years as assistant principal at Moss Elementary before moving into her current post.

Moss2 0691As of the 2019-2020 school year, Moss had 406 students with approximately 96% either African American or Hispanic. According to data from Texas Education Agency (TEA) of that year, 62.1% of students at Moss are considered at risk of dropping out of school, 92.9% are economically disadvantaged, and 37.4% were enrolled in bilingual and English language learning programs.

The socioeconomic realities at Moss are a hurdle, not a barrier, for Mrs. Staten and her team of dedicated teachers to nurture a culture of reading.

“We really believe that we must do whatever possible to ensure that all of our students are reading on or above grade level,” Mrs. Staten said. “By exposing them to high quality vocabulary and reading instruction, we are creating future leaders who will be able to lead the way. Every day, we strive to make literacy instruction a priority while making it engaging and fun.”

The theme this year at Moss is “Rise to the Challenge!” That applies to the Moss’ entire community, with the focus always on students and their growth. 

“Students always learn best when they know the ‘why’ and when it is engaging,” Mrs. Staten said. “The students, parents and administration believe in the staff at Moss Elementary. Throughout the year, we continue to build authentic and positive relationships with all of students.

“Many teachers will purchase books for their students because they have expressed the love for a new book that was read during the class. Exposing students to reading early creates a genuine love for reading.”

Each morning, the entire student body recites Moss’ Learner’s Creed to begin the day with a positive affirmation. Mrs. Staten ends the morning announcements with a quote from Christopher Robin, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, but most importantly loved so much more than you know.” 

“Whenever you walk through the doors at Moss, you are greeted with so much love,” Mrs. Staten said. “At Moss, we really strive to be a strong family unit. Many times, we may be the only family that they may have. It’s important that our students feel that are empowered to go above the norm regardless of their zip code.”

Mrs. Staten also makes it a point to praise teachers publicly for their hard work, and willingness to go above and beyond.

“It is important for the teachers and staff to know that we are in this together, so we make sure to work and model the expectations for our teachers and staff,” she said. “The leadership team ensures that we support our teachers by coaching, modeling, and providing feedback for improvement. Being transparent and building trust is pivotal for any successful team.”

Mrs. Staten calls Moss a “magical place” because of the students and community. She genuinely believes that “zip code doesn’t determine your success,” and will always make sure that Moss students are cared for.

“This is a family atmosphere,” she said. “We strive every day to ensure that our students have the best even when their home environment cannot provide. We are an extension of our families and want to ensure that we support them in all endeavors. We have many community partners that believe in our magic as well. We are so very grateful to our partners because it shows our students, teachers and families that others believe in the work that we are doing here.”