It takes a little bit of a risk taker to walk into a school building more than a month after classes have begun and take over as principal.

It takes a little bit of a risk taker to walk into a school building more than a month after classes have begun and take over as principal.

Linda Strong has spent the past school year serving as the interim principal after Denny Thompson left Hoffman Trails Elementary School in Hilliard to become the director of curriculum and instruction at the Ohio Department of Education.

"I thought I was going to sail in and do the job and cruise on out," said Strong, who has worked in education for more than 35 years. "But I became fond of the school and attached to the people and students. It's hard to say good-bye."

Shelli Miller was hired earlier this month as the permanent principal for the building and Strong will be leaving shortly after the students take their break for the summer.

"She is a good fit," Strong said of Miller.

Miller is currently employed by South-Western City Schools, where she is the principal of James A. Harmon Elementary School. She began her career as a language arts teacher for Hilliard Middle School and Weaver Middle School in 1992 and her husband, Brett, was named "Educator of the Year" in April.

Even though she appreciates what Miller has to offer, Strong said, she will miss Hoffman Trails.

"The kids are neat and they are learning so much," she said. "I didn't expect to feel this way. I have made some really nice connections and friends here. They have been helpful and supportive and I cannot speak highly enough for the people in the office and the district. The people at Central Office have been great. The year has gone by fast. Obviously it was busy."

Strong, who spent her career in the Columbus Public Schools, admitted that it took a little while to catch up after coming into the building after the start of the year.

"It was like figuring out a puzzle and once I did, it all fell into place," she said.

Strong said she was probably in the building for about a month when people stopped saying, "Mr. Thompson did it this way."

That was when she knew she could make the school her.

"I didn't change things, but I put it out in a different manner," she said.

On the "crazy days" when everything seemed to be falling apart, there were lines of sick children standing outside the nurse's office, someone was having a tantrum in the hallway and a parent was wondering why their child didn't get lunch, Strong questioned why she put retirement on hold.

"I thought, 'This too shall pass,'" she said. "And the next day everything was great."

When she walked into Hoffman Trails Elementary seven months ago, Strong was determined to learn the name of each and every child. It did not work out well for the experienced educator.

She now admits that it was a lofty goal to learn 475 names.

"I know them on the playground and then they walk into the classroom," she said. "They look different without their coats and hats."

She said she may know their classroom, but she is not always able to come up with the name.

"I was just getting in the groove of this and learning the ins and outs," she said.

Her favorite memory took place in January.

"I watched the inauguration with the fourth-grade class," Strong said. "It was neat to sit with them and do the Pledge together. I was witness to this historic time with the future leaders of our country."

It will be a story to share with her son when she visits him in Philadelphia and with her former high school friends when they take a trip to San Antonio after school has recessed for Strong.

She said she and her former classmates go on a trip together every year. "We come from all over the country and meet some place," she said.

Strong is joined by about seven of her friends as they travel every place from Florida's Amelia Island to Salt Lake City.

Now that her stint as an interim principal comes to a close, she is preparing for the last day of school.

"A little kindergartner came up to me today," she said on May 20, "and said, 'You will not be here next year.' I said, 'That's right. You are moving to first grade and I am moving on too, but I will always remember you. You meet new friends, but you don't forget the ones you know.'"