Lincoln Southwest teacher receives 2018 Battey Award
Brandi Benson, English and journalism teacher at Lincoln Southwest High School, has earned the 2018 Frieda Battey Distinguished Educator Award, presented by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's College of Education and Human Sciences. She received the honor May 11 at a luncheon in the Nebraska Union.
Jessica Horan, a May graduate from Nebraska in family and consumer sciences education, nominated her former yearbook teacher for the Battey Award and said she thinks about Benson every week.
"She spoke words of positivity and encouragement every day," Horan said. "Brandi valued every one of her students and had no tolerance for students being excluded or mistreated. She knew her students on a personal level."
Horan took notice of Benson's classroom organization and teaching style, saying: "Her classroom structure and content were well-thought-out and executed. She was constantly looking for ways to better the journalism program and her students. Her students gained autonomy quickly with her assistance."
Sarah Thomas, assistant professor of practice in the College of Education and Human Sciences, taught Benson and supervised her student teaching placements. Thomas said Benson is an educator with "infectious exuberance" and "unwavering optimism" who brings graciousness to everything she does.
"When leaders in any field — and especially in the field of education — lead from head and heart in equal measure, we are able to see magic in their memorable influence," Thomas said. "Time and time again, I've observed Ms. Benson operating as such a leader."
Her colleagues at Lincoln Southwest appreciate Benson's skill in finding the unique gifts in each student and bringing them out in productive ways. In a letter of support for her Battey nomination, Associate Principal Keri Applebee and Special Education Coordinator Christy Champoux admired Benson's connection with students of many backgrounds and abilities.
"One thing she does so well is recognizing others' strengths and allowing them to utilize those strengths," Applebee and Champoux wrote. "Brandi truly wants all students and staff to be successful and collaborates with necessary stakeholders to attain the goal at hand."
An example they gave was her coordination, organization and coaching of Southwest's unified bowling team, which features students with and without intellectual disabilities. Benson, they said, set high expectations for all participants and fostered an environment that made a lasting impact on student-athletes and supporters. In part because of her leadership with the bowling team, she has received two awards from the Down Syndrome Association for Families of Nebraska.
Benson has taught at Lincoln Southwest since 2013. She earned her Master of Arts in English education in 2013 from Nebraska and her Bachelor of Arts in media production at Hastings College in 2006.
The Battey Award honors the life and career of Freda Drath Battey, a 1923 graduate of Nebraska's Teachers College who was a public school teacher in Ashland for many years. College of Education and Human Sciences students nominate recipients. In reviewing nominations, the selection committee looks for evidence of teaching excellence, efforts to continue to grow as a teacher, commitment to students, and engagement with students outside the classroom.