Teacher Feature: Mr. Conner

The best teachers have the biggest hearts, and Old Trail teachers are so much more than instructors. They are trusted advisors and mentors, who challenge, guide and lift up our students. It is with these intangible qualities in mind that we showcase today’s Teacher Feature, Physical Education Teacher John Conner. 
“John has a love for his students and his subject area of physical education,” said Grade 4 teacher Susan Alexander. “He is a genuinely caring teacher and does an amazing job building rapport with his students and building their confidence within PE.  His encouragement, sense of humor, and positive attitude make even the most reluctant students want to try new activities.” 

Mr. Conner is in his 15th year at Old Trail where he has taught all types of learners, ranging in age from early childhood all the way to grade 8. He's also coached swimming, girls basketball, track & field and softball (when it was offered). Additionally, he coordinates wellness activities for OTS staff and co-chairs the Sunshine Committee – a compassionate group of school employees who find creative and thoughtful ways of supporting the OTS faculty and staff throughout the year. This past summer, he moved into his new role as the school's athletic director.  

But it may be Mr. Conner’s work outside of Old Trail that is the best indicator of his huge heart and sincere compassion for helping others. In addition to his many duties at OTS, Mr. Conner serves as Vice President of Project Outrun, a non-profit organization in Akron that empowers children battling pediatric cancer by gifting them custom-designed running shoes. 

And the best part? The shoes are designed by the kids. Since its inception in 2017, Project Outrun – whose motto is “When you ‘outrun’ cancer, it helps to have the right shoes” – has produced nearly 1,000 pairs of shoes and counting.  

“It is incredibly rewarding to sit down with a child and their family as they are going through such a difficult and emotional time,” Mr. Conner said. “Through this project, we bring a small piece of joy to their stressful lives and we can really uplift their spirits in a small way. It's really nice seeing photos of the kids opening and wearing their shoes.”

Mr. Conner’s inspiration for becoming a teacher can be traced back to his college years when he started coaching swimming. He soon discovered that he really enjoyed being around and working with kids and changed his major to physical education as a result. 

When Mr. Conner is not at school or volunteering at Project Outrun, he enjoys water skiing and even participates as a member of a local competitive team. When asked what he enjoys most about working at Old Trail, his answer was short and direct.

“It’s the community that draws me to Old Trail,” he said. “There is a strong community atmosphere here and that really means a lot to me.”

We’re grateful that Mr. Conner is part of our school and the larger community. Thank you for all you do, Mr. Conner!

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#TeacherFeatureFriday is a series that aims to help the OTS community get to know our faculty and staff better. On select Fridays throughout the school year, we will use this space to highlight some of the amazing individuals who make Old Trail such a distinctive place for children to learn and grow.

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Old Trail School is a private day school for preschool through grade eight students located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.