DEVOTED teachers Val Bell and Janet Smith are celebrating notching up 80 years of teaching between them at the same school.
The pair both began teaching at The Academy of Shotton Hall in September 1972 and have been there ever since.
During the years they have held several posts at the Peterlee school and the women, who are also great friends and even drive to work together from their homes in the Lumley area, both say they wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
Val, who was born and raised in Easington began her career at the Passfield Way school straight from training college as a French teacher and Janet, who moved to the area from Yorkshire, as an English and RE teacher.
Val, 61, said: “We started on the very same day and it was the same day Shotton Hall became a comprehensive school, so it was very exciting. Peterlee was very different then, there was no housing estate behind us, it was all trees and fields.”
Janet, 64, added: “Because the school was becoming a comprehensive it was quite a big change and a lot of new teachers started with us.”
Now both women work together in the pastoral side, supporting young people with a range of problems and issues and caring for their welfare.
Val, who in 2008 won the regional lifetime achievement award in the National Teaching Awards, said: “I have had a charmed career. I have had promotions and been given different opportunities and challenges.
“I love working at the school, for all I have put into it, the school has given me a huge amount back. The kids have given me so much pleasure and pride.
“I think the school is the best it has ever been.”
During their time at the school, the woman have seen about 10,000 pupils come through the doors, are on to their fifth headteacher and are now teaching the grandchildren of some of their earlier students.
Janet said: “It is still the best job in the world.”
Principal Lesley Powell said: “Janet and Val are the heart of the academy and in 40 years their joy at working with children has never faded.
“They have made an enormous difference to the school by creating a supportive environment where children feel safe, happy and ready to learn.
“The compassion, care and concern they show towards our students is incomparable and students and staff alike love to have them here. After 40 years of dedication to local children, Val and Janet embody what it means to be a teacher.”