This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

Chris Greene has 680 children, not one, at Granite Falls Elementary School.

Greene, a former assistant principal at South Caldwell High and principal at Gamewell Middle, was appointed this year as principal at Granite Falls Elementary School. One of his children is in first grade at Granite Falls, and the other will start kindergarten there next year, but Greene said he wants parents to know he views every child at Granite Falls as part of one family.

“I want them to know that when their children come in here in the mornings, that the 680 students who attend here are all my children during the day, that I take that job very seriously and that I will do everything in my power to protect them and to help my teachers give them the best education possible,” Greene said in an interview Wednesday.The year ahead will be one of adjustment for Greene, his colleagues and their students. Teachers and administrators at Granite Falls are still adjusting to the Common Core state standards, which were implemented last year, and to PowerSchools, a new computer system that aims to consolidate everything from grades to bus schedules in one place.

They’re also starting the year with fewer resources – adjusting, for instance, to the absence of teacher assistants in grades where they’re used to having them. But Greene said he has seen the school’s strengths in the way employees have adapted to those changes. He pointed to the example of a teacher assistant who had an hour of free time and, instead of taking a break, asked to assist in a fifth-grade class – a grade that, at Granite Falls this year, is without teacher assistants.

“What I’ve found so far is the strength of this school is, far and away, the staff,” Greene said. “I’ve just been overly impressed with the staff.”

Greene is also working to integrate more technology in the classroom. This year, he hopes to complete an initiative that would place iPads in the hands of all Granite Falls classroom teachers. Traditional classroom teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade already have them, but Greene hopes to equip the teachers in chorus, music, art and other specialty subjects with the tablets as well.

Greene, who has a bachelor’s degree from Mars Hill College, a master’s from Western Carolina University and an educational specialist degree from Appalachian State University, didn’t always want to be an educator.

He was studying accounting at Mars Hill when, he said, he realized he was on the wrong track.

“I realized I did not want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life,” said Greene, glancing at his own desk at the school. Even today, he said, he doesn’t spend much time at his desk – he’d rather be out in the halls and classrooms that make up his school.

Greene eventually discovered a passion for education, later teaching at the same high school he attended – North Buncombe High in Weaverville – before coming to Caldwell County.

The best part of this second act has been how much this new home – his first, after a life spent in Buncombe County – surprised him, Greene said.

“It was a scary thing when my wife and I moved to Caldwell County,” he said. “We both had lived in the Asheville area for most of our lives. I remember being absolutely terrified of a new place, and I guess the highlight has been that these eight years have been absolutely wonderful for me.”