Two Nebraska teachers have been selected to receive the Freda Battey Distinguished Educator Award from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences. The award recipients are Candace Cain, English teacher at Burwell Public Schools, and Todd Menghini, English teacher at Scottsbluff Public Schools.
The Battey Award honors the life and career of Freda Drath Battey, a 1923 graduate of Nebraska’s Teachers College and longtime public school teacher in Ashland. Battey’s family established the award in her memory in 1986.
The criteria for the award is “excellence in teaching coupled with recognition in other complementary education activities, such as counseling of students or initiation of student-oriented programs.” Candidates for the award are nominated by students in the College of Education and Human Sciences.
Cain has taught at Burwell Public Schools since 2006. In addition to teaching, she is the head director for one-act play, head speech coach, FCCLA adviser, Poetry Out Loud adviser and serves on various school committees. She is also an adjunct public speaking instructor at Northeast Community College in Norfolk.
Cain was nominated for the award by Blake Mann, a secondary social sciences education major. Mann noted Cain’s efforts to foster his confidence in the classroom, and the encouragement she gives all students to participate in extracurricular activities.
“Ms. Cain’s encouragement would propel my passion for education and love for learning,” Mann wrote. “When I think of what I want to give my students, I think of what Ms. Cain gave to me.”
Connie Piper, retired teacher at Burwell Public Schools, worked alongside Cain. Piper noted Cain’s abilities to help students recognize that learning is lifelong, and that the skills earned in her English and speech classes will help them fulfill their goals. She considers Cain a “real model of what an educator should be.”
“Candace’s dedication to her students; her high expectations, tempered with love and kindness; and her own role modeling of service to her school, community, state and nation far exceed most teachers that I have known,” Piper said.
A native of Burwell, Cain earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Nebraska.
Menghini has taught at Scottsbluff Public Schools since 1997, where he currently serves as the English department chair. In addition to teaching, Menghini has served as a National Honor Society adviser, project editor for DECA and assistant track coach. He also sits on the leadership committee and mentors first-year teachers. Over the years, Menghini has been a part of many professional programs and committees and has held a variety of coaching roles.
Menghini was nominated for the award by Sydney Petitt, a secondary English and language arts education major, who said he is one of the reasons she chose her major. She appreciates the way Menghini teaches without bias and helps students learn valuable life lessons through exercises such as writing position papers from an opposing viewpoint.
“He is the sole reason I have such an open mind and always look from the other perspective before judging someone,” Petitt said. “Because of him, I have the tools and ability to walk in the shoes of others in a way I had never imagined.”
Shelby Aaberg, mathematics department chair at Scottsbluff Public Schools and 2015 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, has witnessed his colleagues’ positive influence on students from all walks of life.
“He is skilled at guiding students to think for themselves, to question authority and to develop the ability to rationalize and defend their own views,” Aaberg said.
Menghini earned a bachelor’s degree in language arts from Nebraska and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Chadron State College.
Cain and Menghini will each receive an inscribed school bell and cash award. Their school districts will also each receive a cash award.
To learn more about the Battey Award, click here.