The Windy Ridge K-8 School community is mourning the death of a beloved instructor, second-grade teacher Timothy Toddy.
Toddy, 40, of Clermont, was taking his two stepdaughters to school Monday, Oct. 7, when the fatal accident occurred on the Florida’s Turnpike. Toddy’s car collided with a dump truck, which caused a chain reaction involving two more vehicles.
According to a family friend, Alana Sifre, 16, and Julissa Santiago, 11, both were hurt, and it will take Alana up to year to fully recover from her injuries.
At Windy Ridge, Orange County Public Schools provided a team of support persons from the district and Principal Charles Jackson notified parents and gave them the option of breaking the news to their children.
“We … sat with the kids and (broke) the news to them,” Jackson said.
The students were able to process as a group what the news meant, but the gathering also served as a way to open up dialogue.
“Many of the boys and girls were upset, and as they talked about him certain things came up,” Jackson said. “One little boy said, ‘Those are the scissors I bought him,’ that were sitting on his desk. They talked about him loving the Steelers and fishing. Things of that nature started to come out.
“It was a moment of grieving but also a moment of celebrating,” Jackson said.
The school is working on something special, possibly a balloon release, for Toddy’s class, and his name will be added to a plaque around a tree at the school front that is dedicated to members of the Windy Ridge community who have died.
“He was very caring, very thorough,” Jackson said. “All his students loved him. … He was definitely a teacher who loved teaching, he loved his children, and he would do anything for them.”
A member of the school’s leadership team currently is leading the class until a permanent teacher is found, Jackson said.
Messages from teachers were posted on the funeral home’s tribute page for Toddy. They wrote they will miss his daily hugs and Pittsburgh Steelers conversations, that he truly brought to life the real meaning of “actions speak louder than words,” that God blessed the Windy Ridge family with the gift of Toddy’s gentle and warm spirit; and they will honor his life by living each day with the gentleness, kindness and compassion he showed with everyone.
Toddy taught second grade this school year but had previous experience at the middle school and fifth-grade levels.
Ruth Rodriguez, a first-grade teacher who worked with Toddy for three years at Windy Ridge, called him a faithful friend who was always ready to help — and with a smile on his face.
“I … had the privilege of having some of my students spend part of this school year with him,” Rodriguez said. “They would often come visit me and tell me how excited they were to learn with Mr. Toddy and what a kind teacher he was with the class.”
He was a dedicated teacher who went the extra mile to ensure student success, she said, and this included volunteering his time to tutor students after school so they could improve their performance on Florida Statewide Assessment testing.
“He wasn’t only committed to the cause of student success but overall well-being of the student to encourage personal growth and often times bring a smile with his sense of humor,” Rodriguez said. “He had a calmness about him that was contagious whenever he was around you; never in a rush yet attentive to the needs of others, both students and staff.”