Grace M. Nicholson (1878-1966) was born in Rock Island, Illinois to Edward J. and Maria Greves Nicholson. She and her family moved to Aurora when Grace was a young child. She was a graduate of West Aurora High School, and attended Northern Illinois State Teacher’s College and DePaul University in Chicago. Miss Nicholson, fondly known as “Nicky” to her friends, taught for a total of fifty years. She began her career at Paw Paw, Big Rock and the Red Brick School on West Galena Boulevard.
In 1902, she became a teacher at the Montgomery School. She later served as principal of the school until her retirement in 1949. Miss Nicholson was a dedicated teacher who used her personal funds in 1911 to start a library at the school. She also was active in establishing the first kindergarten at the school in 1915. After WWI, she helped organize the first Montgomery School PTA.
During her entire teaching career, she was only absent one day because of illness. Even bad weather did not keep her away from school. When streetcars could not run because tracks were filled with snow, she would walk from her home on View Street in Aurora to the school in Montgomery. At the renaming ceremony of the school in 1962, it was stated that the secret to Miss Nicholson’s success as a teacher was respecting each of her pupils as individuals. Nicholson was a speaker at the ceremony attended by more than five hundred friends and former students.
Also in 1962, a former student commented on the Aurora Radio Station (WKKD) that Miss Nicholson would be remembered and loved for many things, but the most vivid would be her ability to bring the classics, poetry and travel experiences to her students in such a way that they became a part of it and lived the story as it was being told. “When speaking to Miss Nicholson, one learns to appreciate the phrase ‘The Hallowed Halls of Ivy.’”
Grace Nicholson was a member of Wesley Methodist Church and a charter member of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. She died in 1966 and is buried in the West Aurora Cemetery.
grace m. nicholson
First Montgomery School opened 1891 (photo taken 1903)
Grace M. Nicholson Elementary School
153 Randall Rd