Bill Santi has a problem.
The Crosby-Ironton educator can't say no.
Whether it's coaching, teaching, chaperoning dances, taking pictures for the yearbook, being a fan, running clocks, line judging, refereeing, selling tickets, running a concession stand, driving a van ... you get the point.
Santi just can't say no.
"He is my main go-to guy," said C-I activities director Dave Niemi. "He does everything that needs to be done. Whenever there is something that has to be done he is the guy. He's been invaluable to me. He's busy just like anyone else, but he still finds the time to help."
Crosby-Ironton teacher Bill Santi talked with students Michael Girtz (left) and Kaitlyn Risnes after school earlier this month. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
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The reason he can't say no is the reason he became a teacher 33 years ago. He said if you're not here for the kids then you're here for the wrong reasons.
Santi's main contributions have revolved around athletics.
"I've always liked to be involved with sports," said Santi. "It doesn't make any difference what sport. It's always been real important to me to be available for whatever activities are needed. This year I took pictures at a cross country meet for the yearbook. I made it to various tennis matches. I go to volleyball all the time. I went to a couple of football games and a lot of junior high activities. The kids appreciate when they see you there. It helps you connect with them at another level."
Making connections has been Santi's focus since moving to C-I.
Santi is a special education teacher. He realizes his room has a stigma. He's worked to break that through his involvement with all students.
Favorite sport: Basketball.
Favorite professional team: Timberwolves.
Favorite athlete: Kevin Garnett because of what he has done within the community.
Favorite TV show: "CSI."
Favorite movie: "Down Periscope."
CD currently listening to: Trace Adkins.
Favorite C-I sports moment: 1987 state boys' basketball victory over Hawley.
Daughters' names: Alisha, Heather.
"I felt coaching would be a good way to bridge that gap with students," said Santi. "What has happened is I've become known as a coach and not as a special education teacher. I have athletes coming in and out of my room all the time. That helps the students who are in my room and who I work with realize that it's OK to be in my room."
Santi started coaching 32 years ago. Hall of fame head boys' basketball coach Bill Selisker came to Santi his second year at C-I and asked if he knew anything about basketball. He did. Selisker made Santi the head coach of the Deerwood Elementary team.
Since then he's coached girls' and boys' basketball, baseball and softball. He's helped out the football and volleyball programs. He said he doesn't claim to know everything about every sport, but he'll help regardless.
"He's done too many things to even mention," said C-I head girls' basketball coach Randy Swanhorst. "He grasped on to what we were trying to do immediately with our program. He understood the importance of developing the junior high program. He's taken a lot of pride in being a part of that turn around. He's put in a lot of time into the program in both the school and summer seasons."
Most of what Santi does is volunteered. He does get paid to line judge and officiate. The father of two daughters said he gets more reward from the students he helps.
"The kids will ask me if I'm going to their event that night," said Santi. "They appreciate it. They'll come up and tell me thanks. That's more than enough."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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