Students and staff at Bella Vista Elementary School are being recognized by the state for their work and growth in student achievement as a Title I school.

The Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE) National Title I Distinguished Award committee visited the Sierra Vista school on Monday, because Bella Vista is one of 14 finalists for the award.

The ADE is bringing back the National Title I Distinguished Award for the first time in nine years. The award recognizes schools that have outstanding academic achievements and growth of their students.

Im very proud to lead a distinguished group of students and staff here at Bella Vista, said Bella Vista Principal, Mary Slaydon.

Slaydon said the school was contacted by the committee to apply for the award because of its achievements. The school received an “A” letter grade again by the state. They are one of two Sierra Vista Unified School District schools to receive an “A”.

Bella Vista has 300 students enrolled this year. Title I teacher, Erica Archer, said she sees up to 100 of them a day in her classroom. She and her two paraprofessionals work one on one with the students to provide extra help on math and reading concepts.

Were giving the students like a double and triple dip that they may not get in the classroom,” Archer said. “All of our teachers are wonderful at giving small group instruction and everything but then we go in and do even more work with the students and give them one on one.

Katie McAdams, has seen first hand how the teachers and the Title I program at Bella Vista can make a difference.

I can say without a doubt (it) changed my daughter’s life, she said.

Her daughter, a recent graduate, and her son have both benefited from the school’s focus on academics and the Title I program. She said it’s the school’s teachers that are making a difference.

Even in different states weve been in, weve been in Title I,” McAdams said. “And its a great program, but if you dont have the teachers that are really going to make you feel like hey, were really looking after your kid and were going to tailor this to how they learn, I dont really think it matters.

The committee will select two schools as the winners next week. The winners will represent the state at the national Title I conference in February.

But for the students and staff at Bella Vista, being a finalist is an honor and is motivation to keep getting better.

Were very excited for this honor but that doesnt mean that the buck stops here. Well keep trekking and grow our students, Slaydon said.