Tributes paid to former school teacher who ‘loved his subject’

St Ivo teacher Henry Berman. Picture: RAY JOHNSON

St Ivo teacher Henry Berman. Picture: RAY JOHNSON - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to an inspirational teacher who created a “zoo” at St Ivo School.

Henry Berman, who has died at the age of 82, was loved by generations of students at the school where he taught for almost 40 years.

His fascination with insects led him to set up St Ivo’s Entomology and Natural History Society (Entsoc) which became internationally famous and included working with the naturalist and author Gerald Durrell.

Friend and colleague David Chambers said Mr Berman helped breed rare lizards for Mr Durrell in what became the school zoo.

Mr Chambers said: “Above all, Henry was a great teacher and communicator. To watch him in the classroom was like watching a conductor with an orchestra - even the most recalcitrant pupil would behave and fall under his spell.

“His secret was that he liked children and loved his subject. Stories about him are legendary. Those who knew him were all touched by his magic.”

Mr Berman and his late wife Joan arrived in St Ives from London in 1957 when he was appointed biology teacher.

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He set up Entsoc with the zoo being based in his laboratory and the tropical room was in a cupboard - but as the school expanded, purpose-built temperate and tropical rooms were included.

At the time animals included an alligator, a large snapping turtle, terrapins, boa constrictors, pythons, tarantulas and a range of small mammals, reptiles and insects.

Mr Chambers said Mr Berman was a great believer in the abilities of his student who ran Entsoc on a team basis with members being responsible for the upkeep of the animals, even during school holidays. They had to pass special exams to progress and be awarded the coveted Entsoc badge.

He said many of Mr Berman’s students went on to work in science involving animals.

Mr Berman and his wife used to take the society on exhibitions at home and abroad where they stayed in youth hostels and collected and catalogued insects and small mammals.

Outside school, Mr Berman was involved in many organisations including Mencap with his wife Joan, who became an MBE for her work with the charity, Amnesty International and a hospital board. He was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Entomology Society for his work on insects.