Community rallies around teacher injured in car crash

Windermere High teacher Steven Norman recently was involved in a three-vehicle accident.

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  • | 4:06 p.m. January 31, 2018
“I’ve never heard anybody say anything unkind about him, ever," said Windermere High School teacher Stacy Bishop about Steven Norman. (Courtesy Photo)
“I’ve never heard anybody say anything unkind about him, ever," said Windermere High School teacher Stacy Bishop about Steven Norman. (Courtesy Photo)
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WEST ORANGE – “Remember when Norman did this?” 

That’s the typical prelude one hears before listening to one of the many stories people share about longtime teacher Steven Norman.

Norman — a biology teacher at Windermere High School who formerly taught at West Orange High School — is well known as a quirky and friendly guy to both his students and colleagues.

And it’s that reputation and charm that earned him the concern of several in the West Orange and Windermere communities when word spread about his involvement in a three-vehicle traffic crash involving a school bus on a Thursday morning, Jan. 18. 

At first, his students in his first-period class assumed Norman was simply late, as many teachers had arrived late that day because of heavy traffic from the accident. But as the day progressed, they learned Norman’s car was the smashed vehicle pictured in all the news reports.

“There was a lot of traffic, so the teachers were all coming late that day,” said Madelyn Papa, a Windermere High sophomore who is one of Norman’s students. “We thought he was just late, but by sixth period, I heard he had been in a car accident. I was really shocked and sad. And I saw what the car looked like later, and I was terrified because I heard almost his whole left side was shattered, so it’s scary to hear a teacher you care about is so badly hurt.”

Papa said many of the students like him because of his kindness and his willingness to share about himself. Some of his students are pitching in to get him cards and flowers.

“He’s actually one of my favorite teachers because he’s very fun and loving,” she said. “He doesn’t have much family. He told us he only has his sister, and he’s not married, so he lives on a farm with all his animals. He likes to tell us about his life and just kind of introduce himself to us. But he’s just such an energetic person, so this is really sad to hear.”

Windermere High math teacher Stacy Nierman Bishop has heard the classic “Norman stories” since before she met him at Windermere High — both from co-workers at a former middle school she taught at where Norman once also taught and from her daughter, who took one of Norman’s classes in ninth grade.

“I don’t know him that well, but the funny thing is our paths have crossed several times over the years,” Bishop said. “He worked at one of the schools that I used to work at before I did. So I would hear all kinds of stories about him from co-workers about what a quirky, cool guy he is and how kind and funny he is. He’s a little out there sometimes but in a good way. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body — he’s just an all-around nice guy.”

Steven Norman has a small farm in Groveland. (Courtesy Photo)
Steven Norman has a small farm in Groveland. (Courtesy Photo)

Norman is recovering from his extensive injuries following the accident and is still in critical condition, according to Windermere High School Assistant Principal John Linehan, who has been providing regular updates to the community via a GoFundMe page. 

The fundraiser, which raised $3,675 out of its $5,000 goal as of Tuesday, Jan. 30, was set up to raise money for support with costs required for the care of the animals at his small farm in Groveland while he recovers.

According to a prior update posted last week, Norman is using a ventilator, is on dialysis and has undergone multiple surgeries to set his broken leg and hip, with a future surgery pending to fix his broken arm.

“On Sunday, I met Mr. Norman’s sister up at the hospital and actually was allowed into his room for a visit,” Linehan wrote Monday, Jan. 29. “The visit actually made it very clear as to why his sister has been keeping people away from his room. I am sure Mr. Norman would not want people seeing him in his current condition, either. He has a very long way to go, and although his condition is stable, machines are doing most of what his body should be doing on its own. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. He really needs all he can get right now.”

Bishop said they are all hoping for the best as they await updates regarding Norman’s condition.

“It’s hard to know that somebody you work with has been in a terrible accident and is in the hospital, so we eagerly await the updates,” she said. “They don’t know anything for sure at the moment. It looks like they’re just seeing how it’s going day by day. We’ve gotten some reports that sounded a little scary, but we’ve also received some good reports. I think it’s a little early to be optimistic, but we’re going to be optimistic anyway because that’s just the way we are.”