When Dana Strong was hired 10 years ago to teach at Port Lions, he didn’t envision falling in love with the village.
But, he did.
That’s why the decision to leave Port Lions was a difficult one. Strong and his family boarded the ferry Wednesday evening to begin a new adventure in Nucla, Colo.
“I remember when I first got hired, the principle here told me if I put in two years I would have done my job and can move on,” Strong said. “But, it’s turned out to be just a wonderful place for the kids and too good of an experience to leave. It is definitely tough to leave now, let alone earlier.”
Strong’s first job was teaching; his second job was coaching. He coached Port Lions’ cross country and basketball squads. He leaves after guiding the Kings’ girls basketball team to back-to-back 1A state titles — the school’s only hardwood titles.
“The winning to me is the byproduct of doing all the right things and they have done the right things,” Strong said.
Strong enjoyed working with his students and said that is what he will take away from his time in Port Lions.
“Honestly, I have coached in other states, but these kids have been special,” he said. “That has been the biggest thing I am proud of.”
Before he arrived, Strong said Port Lions athletes hardly traveled off of Kodiak Island. That changed under Strong as his teams routinely scheduled games on the Mainland.
“We have been able to get off the island, travel and have fun and I’m really proud of that aspect — opening up doors to the kids as well,” he said.
Strong thanked everybody who supported Port Lions.
“The support on Kodiak Island, not just in Port Lions, for the kids in the school has just been tremendous. We are real appreciative of that,” he said. “I don’t think people realize just how much it means to the kids out here.”
Strong’s decision to leave Port Lions was family-based. He has a son and daughter who live in Utah and another daughter, Katie, who will be running cross country at Everett Community College in Washington in the fall.
“It puts us close to the kids and new opportunities,” he said.
Strong will coach the Nucla boys basketball team, at a school with 88 students. He noted he would miss all the plane trips and the weather delays.
“We never knew where we were going to be and how long we were going to be there,” he said. “That made it kind of fun, actually.”
Strong said the school hasn’t found a new coach.
“I want them to be able to go on next year and not skip a beat with me gone,” he said. “That would be ideal. That to me is the best legacy you can leave.”
Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.