A Family Legacy at Corryton Elementary

By Jamie Schnell


As the school year starts back up and another generation begins their education journey, one family is remembering its time in the halls and classrooms of Corryton Elementary.

It’s been 77 years since Omie Geraldine Conner, née Beeler, stepped into Corryton Elementary. Ms. Conner has lived in the same home for 59 years and has led a full life with six children, 11 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. She shares the Corryton legacy with two other family members, great-granddaughter Shelby Williams and great-grandson Riley Williams. The three met at the school recently to reminisce on why Corryton Elementary remains special for each of them.

Ms. Conner, who went to this school from the 5th grade until the 8th, said “it’s all different” when comparing the school today to the one in her memory.

Riley, who went to Corryton Elementary from 2005-2010,  agreed with his great-grandmother. Chalkboards and text books may evolve into whiteboards and computers, but some things have remained the same, like important teachers.

“These teachers will impact you for the rest of your life. They’re going to be some of your best friends,” Shelby Williams, Corryton student from 2013 to 2015, told The Focus. “I had one of his (Riley’s) teachers, and they still remember him.”

Gathering at the steps of the elementary school, the three reflected fondly on their time at school, their favorite teachers and principals, the basset hound named Bobo, the tire swing breaking, and playing softball at recess and not hearing the bell ring. Ms. Conner told stories to her great-grandchildren of where her favorite “meatloaf cooker” lived, the ice that “made you hit the ground,” and the adventures of catching a teacher’s “big ole red chicken.” She pointed out each tree that has grown on the property since her time there as well as where she used to sit by the window in class.

Principal Aaron Maddox stopped by during the storytelling and, in meeting Ms. Conner, said, “This is the first person I’ve met from that long ago.”  Maddox is the current principal at Corryton Elementary and the eighth principal since Ms. Conner attended.

Principal Maddox told The Focus that Shelby was “an amazing student academically, socially and behaviorally.” After finishing high school, Shelby plans to go to college at UT or LMU. She dreams of playing softball at the college level and studying forensic pathology. Shelby also plans to build a house on a piece of land and send her kids to Corryton Elementary.

Riley just finished paramedic school and plans to “start building a life and looking for a house” so he can continue to stay close with his family.

Ms. Conner recently celebrated her 92nd birthday in April and is progressing significantly in recovering from hip surgery. She’s led a beautiful life, showing future generations a strong and unique legacy of community and a love for learning.

Ms. Conner told The Focus, “I just loved coming to school — I really enjoyed it. It’s overwhelming when I look at how we all   went through this same school together yet generations apart.”

Do the three have any advice for youngsters entering the new school year at Corryton Elementary this week?

“Pay attention and get all the learning you can get,” recommended Ms. Conner.

“Always respect your teachers because they’re always going to be the ones to guide you through everything,“ Shelby replied. “And because this school is so small, everybody knows everybody, and they always expect the best from you.”

“It’s all a small community,” Riley shared. “My teachers would be the first ones out there telling my mama what I did. It got corrected right then.

“This place is awesome — it’s literally the best school. It’s where I want to raise my family and want my kids to go there when that time comes. This place is special, not just to all three of us but to our entire family.”