More than 20 years after graduating from then–Elon College, Greg Holland continues to be surrounded by students on a daily basis.  But it isn't college students he's interacting with, it's the  students at Western Middle School, where Holland was recently appointed principal.

Holland has lived in Elon his whole life.  He attended Elon Elementary and Western Middle.  He graduated from Western Alamance High School, received a degree in physical education from Elon and has since then worked in a variety of positions at local schools.

"My hometown is Elon; I grew up right down beside the fire department," he said.  "It's special to have the opportunity of being principal of a middle school where you attended school yourself."

After Holland graduated from high school, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years before enrolling at Elon. He credits Elon for his success in the education field and said he especially appreciates the faculty that helped prepare him for life after college.

"My professors in the education department, and specifically in the physical education department, prepared me by making sure that we understood what it meant to be a professional and how many lives you would impact if you got into this profession," Holland said.

Barry Beedle, professor of exercise science, taught Holland in exercise sociology 20 years ago.  He remembers Holland as a quiet, conscientious student who showed a lot of potential.

"He was an intelligent young man," Beedle said. "He did well on tests and on assignments. I know he has gone through the ranks in the school systems and has been very successful, so I wasn't surprised to see his name in the paper.  That's a very prestigious position to be principal of Western Middle. I'm sure they were looking for a very good person."

After graduating from Elon, Holland worked as a physical education teacher and a football and baseball coach for 10 years before he got into administration.  Holland said he transitioned to administration so  he could have a positive impact on as many kids as possible, because as a coach he felt limited to the relationships with the players on his team.

Holland has maintained a relationship with Elon University by working with as many student teachers and education majors as possible. He said he hopes he can show his students what a positive experience he had at Elon.

"Elon still has an impact on me," he said. "Most kids will know that I went to Elon because I have Elon memorabilia all over my office.  Even though they are all just in middle school, we already start talking about college, and we want kids to know that they can go to college."

Although his appointment was less than a month ago, Holland already has plans for how he wants to run the school.  He's determined, he said, to create an atmosphere where students feel valued and safe, and where teaching and learning is the main focus every day.

Holland said his main goal  is to be making connections with kids.

"Wherever there is a crowd of kids, that's where I'm going to be," Holland said. "Getting in the classrooms, having lunch in the cafeteria and just talking to them."