Debra Nichols remembers thinking Bancroft School in Andover looked so different from the other public elementary schools she’d seen in the 1970s.
Nichols was a junior at Lesley College in Cambridge studying education when she found herself on a bus full of anxious student teachers bound for Andover in 1976.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. We drove down Bancroft Road and there it was. The school was surrounded by trees ... the setting was beautiful and it was an open school where it seemed everyone knew each other. I remember hoping I would get Bancroft,” Nichols said.
She did and was assigned as a student teacher for the school’s fourth grade. Ron Tibbet, Hazel Cox and Janet Libby were the fourth-grade teachers that spring of 1976.
A special education class assignment followed the next year at Shawsheen School in Andover and, perhaps most importantly, so did love. She met her husband, former School Department Health Director Dave Nichols when they were both young teachers in town. They married in 1985.
“Back then, all of the young teachers hung out together. We traveled, did things together and that’s how I met him,” she said.
Two baby girls — Kate and Hannah — soon arrived and the family eventually settled on Smithshire Estates.
In 1991, Nichols returned to Bancroft as a kindergarten teacher, where she has been ever since.
Now, that open-concept school in the woods that looked so beautiful to the wide-eyed, aspiring teacher in 1976 stands ready to be demolished this summer — replaced by a brand new Bancroft School adjacent to it.
When students and staff return in fall, they will cross the threshold into their new school.
But Nichols won’t be among them. She is among Andover Public Schools’ 2014 class of retirees who, come the last day of school on Friday, June 20, will walk out of the classroom for the very last time as a teacher.