Westmont Magazine Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher
Although she left a traditional classroom 30 years ago, Sydwell Mouw Flynn ’56 never left teaching. Her career got an early start; her senior year at Westmont she taught English grammar to a small group of freshmen.
After 17 years as an elementary and junior high school teacher, Siddy decided to try something else. “The last year I taught was one of the best I ever had,” she recalls. “I loved it, but I didn’t want to teach junior high all my life.”
At her new job with Crain & Associates, a transportation consulting firm, Siddy directed surveys, did market research and traveled extensively. The position required her to hire and train people to take surveys, and she often recruited college students. “If you can teach eighth-graders, you can teach anyone,” she says. “My job with Crain was just an extension of my teaching.” After spending so much time with children, she appreciated being with adults.
Siddy’s life underwent a second change when her 15-year marriage to Robert Flynn ’56 ended in 1971. She became a single mother with two children.
A year later she rented the house she and Robert had purchased in 1960 and moved to Palo Alto and a better school district. Four years later, with some assistance from her boss, she purchased another home in Palo Alto.
Siddy enjoyed her work with Crain, but she missed teaching. At the age of 53, she decided to return to the classroom — but not to junior high school. Her childhood in Borneo, where her parents were missionaries, inspired her to try teaching English as a second language. “I love it. It’s my cup of tea,” she says. “It’s perfect for me. I am very interested in other cultures.” She retired in June 2004 at the age of 70 but plans to substitute occasionally.
In 1991, 41 years after her family left Borneo, Siddy returned to visit. “As the daughter of my parents, who are still loved and revered by the Dayaks, I was treated like a dignitary or a princess,” she says. The experience gave her a desire to tell her parents’ story.
In 2002, Siddy began writing a book, “Up the Notched-Log Ladder: Arthur and Edna among the Dayaks of Borneo.” The self-published work will be available soon. In addition to her own memories, she possessed a valuable resource: 187 letters her parents wrote between 1931 and 1950. Twenty-six tapes of her father’s sermons also provided stories about the Dayaks. Her parents saved photographs, and the book has 108 pictures.
Siddy visited the Dayaks again in February 2004. “Their hospitality toward me was wonderful; their faith in God a joy to behold.”
Writing the book helped Siddy relive her years in Borneo. Reuniting with college classmates every year keeps her experience at Westmont alive. The Awawas (August Westmont Alumni Women’s Association) have met throughout the United States and Canada.
In 1993, when Siddy decided to sell her first home, she realized that a strong real estate market would create a huge capital gain. She and her husband spent a week doing research and number crunching before concluding that a charitable remainder trust (CRT) provided the best option for avoiding a huge tax bill.
She considered only one beneficiary for the trust: Westmont. “I knew where I wanted the money to go. I had such a wonderful college experience: great friends, great teachers, great music and a wonderful environment.
“Everything hinges on education as far as I’m concerned,” she adds. “Education helps make people who they are.
“The decision to create a CRT was not completely altruistic,” she says. “I get a tax break and income in addition to making a gift to Westmont. I was raised to give money back to God, and the trust helps me do that.”
For information about charitable remainder trusts, call Nancy Christel, executive director of endowment growth, at 805-565-7178.