Teacher and pupil reunited through volunteering at Durham Cathedral

A Hartlepool teacher and her former pupil have been reunited after 38 years when they both signed up to become volunteers for to a new exhibition at Durham Cathedral.

Julia Heal was head of history at English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College in the town until she retired in 2007 and decided to apply to become an Open Treasure volunteer.

There, she bumped into former pupil Ian Mason, now a teacher himself and deputy head at St Joseph’s Primary School, also in Hartlepool.

Julia said: “I arrived at my first training day and there was just one seat free in the room so I asked the man in the next chair if the seat was taken.

“He looked up and just said ‘Miss Heal?’ and I looked closer and recognised Ian as one of my former pupils!”

Ian said: “It was a little bit surreal, you don’t expect to meet your former teachers again once you leave school really, but it was lovely to see Miss Heal again.

“She keeps telling me to call her Julia now but I’m not sure I dare!”

“There really is no greater reward for a history teacher than to see that one of their pupils has developed a passion for history that has continued into adulthood, to the point that they are looking to share that passion again with others – it’s wonderful and I’m delighted to be volunteering alongside Ian now.”

Ian was inspired to volunteer at Durham Cathedral when he brought a group of pupils on a school visit.

“When I saw the appeal for Open Treasure volunteers it really appealed to me and my love of history, so I applied for a role at weekends so that I can combine it with my teaching and I can’t wait to start telling people all about the amazing exhibits and artefacts in this fabulous exhibition experience.”

Both Ian and Julia are training to become volunteer gallery attendants for Open Treasure, a £10.9 million, interactive exhibition experience opening at Durham Cathedral on Saturday July 23.

The attraction has taken three years to create and will take visitors on a journey through some of the best preserved monastic spaces in the country, including the 14th Century Monks’ Dormitory, with the largest oak-beamed ceiling outside of Westminster, and the Great Kitchen, one of only two monastic kitchens remaining in the UK.

To learn more about volunteering opportunities at Durham Cathedral contact Marie Wisson on marie.wisson@durhamcathedral.co.uk, 0191 3744068 or go to www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/beinvolved/volunteer.