Three cheers for Biltmore Preparatory Academy! The Creighton District school was one of 36 nationwide that received the coveted A+ School of Excellence award for 2022-2023, the highest state-level award given to public schools. 

The distinction recognized the school’s innovative curriculum and focus on high achievement. The Arizona Educational Foundation, an organization that recognizes and celebrates excellence in public schools, sponsors the prestigious award, a title the school will have for four years. 

According to the Foundation, the designation is a powerful energizer for increased public confidence in recognized schools, often resulting in greater community involvement. 

A hallmark of Biltmore Prep is its Spanish immersion program, which facilitates biliteracy by teaching content equally in both English and Spanish. Students benefit from listening, speaking, reading and writing in both languages and receive a leg up in high school by providing language credit. 

“Our goals are for high academic and proficiency levels in English and Spanish,” Principal Stephanie Del Mar said. “Parents around the Valley choose our school because they want their children to be bilingual.” 

Schools must complete a comprehensive application to reach the high bar the foundation sets. Biltmore Prep’s submission shared data about instructional leadership, curriculum instruction and assessment, school organization and culture, active teaching, student support and caregiver and community involvement.

The school was under the microscope for a day and a half as five judges observed classrooms, recess, lunch periods, drop-offs and pick-ups. Judges also had a staff meeting with different stakeholders to provide an inclusive and in-depth assessment, including teachers, support staff, parents and community members, students, and administrators. 

“Their feedback provides our school the opportunity for reflection on our strengths and helps us identify areas for growth,” De Mar said.

To fuel motivation and behavior, Biltmore teachers have a variety of strategies. For instance, students who display safe, responsible and respectful behavior receive “self-manager badges” to wear for the year. “Tiger Bucks” have proven to be successful motivators as well. Selected students can spend their “bucks” in the classroom for treats. Classrooms even have a “wheel of fortune” that students spin to win rewards like candy/snacks or extra recess.

An exciting opportunity for fourth graders is to travel abroad to Hermosillo, Mexico, where they stay for five days and absorb the rich, colorful culture and language. Enrichment opportunities include chess, STEM classes, and “Odyssey of the Mind,” a problem-solving club. Sponsored by the National Odyssey of the Mind Association, students use their innate creativity to solve problems with original solutions. Examples are creating skits and building structures. 

“I was elated to have won this distinction,” De Mar said. “I know how hard our community works and how much we invest in our students. Receiving the A+ distinction was a way to showcase our efforts to create a successful school with a great place for students to learn. I truly believe we deserve it because of our curriculum and amazing teachers who reflect a positive and supportive atmosphere.”