Kristina Mata Council for Exceptional Children’s Outstanding Student
Desert Vista administrators Carol Parra and Mary D’errico pose with Kristina Mata, who won the Council for Exceptional Children’s Outstanding Student award. Photo courtesy of Esperanza and Robert Mata

A special education student who nominated her teacher for special recognition last week has now received an award of her own.

Desert Vista student Kristina Mata was one of three students to receive the Outstanding Student award from the Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 588, which covers the Tempe Union High School District and the Kyrene and Tempe elementary school districts.

The council looks for qualities like academic growth, a positive attitude and being a role model to others when handing out the award, said Elaine Padilla, one of Kristina's teachers and a member of the council.

Kristina's mother, Esperanza Mata, said Kristina didn't know she was getting the award until a ceremony on Tuesday. Her teachers got up in front of the room to explain why she was getting the award by spelling out her name and listing a positive characteristic to go with each letter, like "K" is for kindness, Mata said.

"When she saw the initial ‘K,' she gasped and said, ‘That's me!'" Mata said.

The presentation also described Kristina as a leader and role model who encourages her fellow students to do their best, is kind to everyone she meets and tries her best at everything.

Kristina said she was excited and surprised to receive the award.

"All my teachers got up and said nice words to me," she said. "And I didn't know anything about it."

Esperanza Mata was excited for her, too.

"I'm speechless. I'm floating. I'm just so proud of her," Esperanza Mata said.

Kristina Mata previously nominated Padilla for an Excellence in Education award, a monthly prize given to teachers by radio station KESZ (99.9 FM) and Rio Salado College, to honor her dedication to special education students. Padilla received that award last week.


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