Barbara Conner, who has been the backbone of Bulloch Academy’s athletic department and its physical education and science programs for the past 27 years, recently was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the Georgia Independent School Association.
Conner was surprised by the announcement, which came at the end of a school-wide Winter Sports Pep Rally in early December in the school’s gymnasium. She received a plaque and a vase of yellow roses from Head of School Leisa Houghton. Conner was given a long and thunderous standing ovation from students, teachers, staff members and parents.
“I wasn’t expecting any of that,” Conner said with a laugh. “When they started reading things about my life, it made me feel older. I looked up in the stands and saw one or two of our teachers who I had taught when they were in school out here. Now, I teach their kids. I told them I was going to stick around so I can teach their grandkids.”
Conner began her career at Bulloch in 1984. She has been the school’s Assistant to the Headmaster, Athletic Director, the head of the science department and the head of the physical education department while coaching both varsity and junior varsity girls’ sports.
When school resumes in January, she will teach high-school Conceptual Physics and Anatomy classes, assist with middle-school P.E. by helping to develop an archery program/club and coach girls’ middle-school basketball. In the fall, she was the head coach of the middle-school softball team and in the spring she will head the varsity and middle school track programs. Conner is also one of the school’s main bus drivers for field trips and away sporting events.
Conner is well-respected locally and among the statewide ranks of the Georgia Independent School Association as a passionate educator and coach. During her coaching career, she has been named state and/or region Coach of the Year numerous times in both track and softball.
Originally from Georgetown, Ill., Conner moved with her family to Statesboro in 1977. She is a 1979 graduate of Statesboro High School, where she was a standout track and field and basketball athlete. At one time, she held the SHS school record in the girls’ discus (105 feet, eight inches).
Conner attended Georgia Southern College and graduated in 1984 with a masters’ degree in physical education and a minor in science.
“I thought I was going to be at BA for a few years until a public-school teaching position became available,” said Conner, who also has her Education Administration certificate. “But I just fell in love with the small, family-oriented atmosphere. There’s not a lot of ‘red tape’ and other things you have to deal with in public education. There are a lot of very, very good teachers in the public schools but I think they are handcuffed by paperwork, ‘red tape’ and other things that they are called on to do outside of the classroom.”
Variety has helped Conner avoid the dreaded teacher burnout.
“I might be teaching high-school science in the morning, then lower-school P.E. at midday, then coach a middle-school sport in the afternoon,” she said. “But it keeps me in touch with all of the different kids.
"I have the unique opportunity to see them grow and develop through the years. I love my job. It’s a great feeling when you wake up every morning and don’t feel like you have to go to work, that you want to go to work.
She and her husband, Dwayne, have been married for 31 years and have three children; James (24), Ashley (23) and Seth (12). James graduated from Bulloch Academy in 2007, Ashley graduated in 2006 and Seth is a sixth-grader at the school. The family reside in Middleground.
A deeply religious woman, Conner has been a member of Bible Baptist Church since 1980. She was a member of the ‘Sounds of Glory’ gospel quartet, which included her husband Dwayne and Donnie and Cindy McQuaig, for nine years. She now helps direct and is a member of the “Blessed Assurance” emsemble at her church. The talented musician plays both the mandolin and the guitar, sings alto and is learning to play the psaltery, which is a stringed instrument that dates back to Biblical times and is similar to a harp. Conner is also an avid hunter and enjoys fishing.
Besides being a teacher and a coach, Conner also helps run the family’s hay business during the summer.