ANDOVER — Barbara and Roger Sabin met in college, devoted their entire teaching careers to the children of SAD 44, and at the end of this school year, will retire together.

They represent two-thirds of the teaching staff at the school.

“It’s the best career I ever could have had. It has kept us young,” Barbara, 59, said from her colorfully decorated kindergarten-grade one classroom.

She has taught the primary grades for 36 years, most at the Andover school, and some at Crescent Park Elementary School.

Roger, 59, said his career, which has also been mostly devoted to the Andover school, has been a rewarding experience. He teaches grades four and five.

“There’s support from parents and other community members,” he said.

The teachers often take children cross-country skiing or to other activities after classes let out. Roger has engaged virtually all 30 pupils enrolled in a sapping activity using the maple trees outside his classroom. In the classroom, the slightly sweet scent of boiling sap wafts through the air.

Both have served as teaching principals over the years, and both have seen huge changes to both the school building and the number of students.

When Barbara began teaching, the school’s enrollment was about 120. About 25 of those youngsters were kindergartners in her first classroom.

Over the years, enrollment dropped off, and sixth-graders were sent to Telstar Middle School.

Neither Barbara nor Roger started out to be teachers.

Roger wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a student at the University of Maine. When he took a year off to try to decide, a friend suggested that he volunteer in a classroom. When he did, he found that he enjoyed the children and was surprised to discover just how easy it was to be around them. He finished his degree, and began teaching in Andover in 1976.

Barbara had thought she wanted to be an occupational therapist. She took a couple of courses at the University of New Hampshire and discovered it wasn’t what she expected and didn’t like it. She returned to UMO, finished her elementary degree, then started teaching in Andover in 1975.

Working in the same school has had many advantages for the couple, they said. They often brainstorm about problems, celebrate each other’s successes, and help each other out.

Roger said children really haven’t changed over the years. They still bring worries to school, but sometimes those worries are different than they once were.

“They are still eager to learn and excited to do something new,” he said.

The big change has come in technology, he said.

“It makes the world much smaller, and when you’re in a rural setting, it opens up the world,” he said.

He is concerned that that same technology may have a negative effect on writing skills.

Barbara said she looks at the school and community as a family.

She greets each child as he or she enters her classroom in the morning, and waves goodbye at the end of the day, she said.

“There’s trust and the feeling (by children) that they are safe,” she said.

Retirement won’t really hit, they believe, until school starts again in the fall. When classes end in June, they plan to take a trip to see their son, Ben, who lives and works in Japan. Until recently, he had taught English, and is now translating for video games. Ben’s twin, Michael, is a pharmacy assistant in Portland.

The Sabins, who live in Andover, plan to volunteer in the schools, and spend more time doing the things they do now, wuch as hiking, gardening, fishing, kayaking and staying longer each summer at a wilderness camp.

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