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September 22, 2013

Retired teacher continues his craft

Former Floyd County teacher host history series

NEW ALBANY —  David Condra spent 37 years teaching in Floyd County classrooms, and he continues his passion for education by hosting “Bicentennial Biographies” workshops, a 12-part lecture series at the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, 201 E. Spring St., New Albany.

Condra, 65, was a teacher for 22 years at St. Mary of the Knobs and 15 years at Floyds Knobs Elementary School.

He not only teaches the hour-long classes, which are held on the third Saturday of each month throughout 2013, related to a local historical figure or event, but he introduced the idea of the educational series to the Carnegie Center.

“I just have a love of Floyd County and New Albany history,” said Condra, who formerly served as the vice president of the Floyd County Historical Society.

He said he came up with the idea of “Bicentennial Biographies” while driving home one day as a way to get young scholars involved during New Albany’s Bicentennial. The program is open to children 8 to 11 years old.

“As a retired teacher, it is my way of making some sort of contribution to the community and working with children,” Condra said. “I like working with children.”

While “Bicentennial Biographies” has not had the participation Condra initially hoped for, as two of the workshops have had no attendees, the educator is staying positive.

“I will work with one child and one parent. That is all that matters to me,” he said. “I’ll keep forging ahead.”

Although the program has yielded a lower than expected turnout, Condra said he's received very positive reactions from the children, and the parents and grandparents, who have attended.

“It gives them a little quality time together on a Saturday morning,” he said.

The workshops are divided between Condra lecturing about the historic figure or event and the children working on crafts related to what they have learned.

On Saturday, Condra featured the story of Georgetown-native Sherman Minton to six children and three supervising adults.

He said he chose Minton for the September lecture because Minton was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in September 1949.

“I am really excited because [Minton] is a very important part our history’s past, not only in New Albany, but Floyd County and Georgetown, as well,” he said.

Minton is also the namesake of the Interstate 64 bridge, completed in 1962, that connects New Albany to Louisville.

“I remember when the bridge was built,” Condra said. “I remember riding my bicycle downtown and seeing the construction going on. I thought it was such a beautiful bridge.”

Condra described Minton as “one of those rare people” who became “a very important American citizen.”

During the workshop, Condra told the children Minton served in all three branches of the federal government as a U.S. Senator, a Supreme Court Justice and an administrative assistant to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“Plus, he served his country during World War I. He was just a very patriotic, upstanding U.S. citizen,” Condra said.

During his lecture Condra not only gave a history of Minton, when he used words, such as bicentennial, that the children may not be familiar with, he patiently took time to explain those words and expand their vocabulary.

He also makes his lecture interactive for the kids by allowing them to ask questions and provide answers to enhance the learning process.

After Condra finished his lecture, he handed out craft goods, including crayons, yarn, scissors, markers and PlayDoh.

The children were allowed to use any of the materials to make an art project related to Minton, the Sherman Minton Bridge, or anything else that Condra discussed during the lecture.

Next month Condra’s workshop will focus on Ashbel P. Willard, a New York native who campaigned for presidential candidate James Polk in the early 1840s in Southern Indiana and later became a New Albany resident, council person and state representative.

“Bicentennial Biographies” workshops begin at 11 a.m. They are free, but registration is required.

To register, contact the Carnegie Center for Art and History, at 201 E. Spring St. at 812-944-7336.

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