I am deeply saddened to share that former junior kindergarten and kindergarten teacher Sydney Hanley passed away on March 7, following a battle with a progressive neurological illness called Multiple Systems Atrophy. The disease is similar to Parkinson's, but is much more aggressive and does not respond to any medications. Sydney had a long connection with Hillbrook. Her mother, also named Sydney, taught at Hillbrook, and then her daughter, Megan, was a student in the 1980s. Sydney became a teacher in the late 1990s, teaching kindergarten and then junior kindergarten until her retirement 17 years later. Kind, caring, patient, and deeply connected to each of her students, Sydney was a master early educator. Sydney did her work without fanfare or drama, never drawing attention to herself, and she became a quiet and highly respected leader amongst her colleagues. In the dedication to the 2015 yearbook, students remembered her for being “generous of spirit, kind, and always working to do her best,” the living embodiment of Hillbrook’s core values. They also remembered the magic they had felt as young children when they discovered leprechaun tracks around their leprechaun traps on St. Patrick’s Day and a room in disarray after the Teddy Bear sleepover. Kindergarten teacher Megan Collins wrote in remarks she shared during Sydney’s good-bye party in 2015, “Even after years of teaching, she constantly develops engaging and thrilling ways to connect children to the world around them… Sydney gives it her all and asks for nothing in return.” She was a remarkable educator, a generous spirit, and a valued friend and colleague to all who knew her. She will be missed.
Sydney is survived by her daughter Megan, her son-in-law Matt, her two grandsons, three sisters, and her father. Megan shared that the family is not planning a service at this time. She noted that Sydney “never liked much fuss made about her,” but that she would love to know that “people she touched took a few minutes to take a walk in the wood and listen to what advice nature has to share.” She also shared that Sydney has always loved the excerpt from Robert Frost’s poem, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.’
Condolences can also be sent to Megan at the following: Megan Hutaff, 1783 N Madison Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91104, firstname.lastname@example.org.