By Mitchell Meadows
JoAna Sydow, marketing teacher and DECA adviser, died on Dec. 12 after a long illness. The news was difficult for those at AHS who considered her a beloved teacher and colleague who had worked at the school for about 15 years.
“It’s like losing a family member; there’s now an emptiness in the halls. Life and school will go on, but our mourning will too,” said sports medicine and P.E. teacher Rob Friedrich. Friedrich took over as teacher for Sydow’s classes during the second semester.
Friedrich recalled the first time he met Sydow. He was wandering the halls on his first day at AHS when she approached him with a warm, welcoming smile. Sydow, who had already been working at AHS for many years, offered Friedrich a hand as she showed him around the campus.
“She was just a remarkable person,” Friedrich said.
At the time of her death, Sydow was teaching three marketing classes. She had been diagnosed with cancer several years prior. Though she suffered from repeated bouts of the cancer, she bounced back many times and continued to teach. This past fall however, she was only able to teach for the first two weeks of school before her condition took a turn. She remained home on sick leave until her death in December.
Sydow is survived by her husband of 19 years, John, and her mother and brother.
In addition to her classes, Sydow was in charge of the DECA program, a business and marketing club, at AHS. She put in countless hours toward improving the club and the experience that its members received.
“I’ve never seen someone feel so passionately about their job as Mrs. Sydow did. She did everything in her power to make DECA a pleasurable experience for all of her students,” Kenneth Ko, a student and DECA member, said.
Like most teachers on campus, Friedrich only has positive things to say about Sydow. “There are just so many qualities that made her a great person, but above all else, she was an outstanding role model for how to face adversity,” he said.
Other teachers also expressed their admiration for Sydow. Karen Harrington, a math teacher, was struck by ” her love of teaching and how she continued on despite cancer, chemotherapy and immense pain.”
TV Media teacher John Dalton was also impressed with Sydow. ”Empathy,” Dalton said, is the quality that most stands out to him about her. “She really felt passionately about her students and she kind of took on a motherly role for students. Her empathy extended to everyone within her orbit,” Dalton said.
Stephen Burnett, AHS campus supervisor and coach, echoed the sentiments of Dalton and Harrington. ”Her whole being was above and beyond,” Burnett said.
“Everything I do is for the kids. I’m here for you guys. That’s me. Mrs. Sydow had me beat ten fold,” Burnett added.
Harrington expressed her feelings for Sydow by saying “If I ever feel sorry for myself, I remember her courage, strength and perseverance. I will picture in my mind the first staff meeting in August 2013, when she was here in spite of excruciating pain. I will never feel sorry for myself again.”
The DECA organization has set up a scholarship in Sydow’s name. Information is available here: http://www.californiadeca.org/resources_joana.php.