In his years as a senior project engineer for Wakefern Corp., Abbas Valanejad is used to casting a watchful eye on the activities of the employees he oversees.
He was doing the same thing Thursday, but this time, in a slightly different setting. Valanejad was overseeing the mathematical computations of a bunch of fourth graders as part of his duties as "Principal for a Day" at in Avenel.
And to hear him tell it, having the time of his life.
"I'm so impressed. I'm so proud of every one of you," Valanejad called out to the beaming students.
The honorary principal sat in the back of Catherine Wehrle's math class, enjoying as Wehrle taught the eager fourth graders with math questions from a laptop computer projected onto a screen at the front of the room.
"These kids are so smart," Valanejad said. "I'm impressed by the use of computer technology to teach them. They really get excited by it."
At Valanejad's side was Maria Pereira, Woodbine School's new principal who helped orchestrate the event.
It was the second year that the has participated in the event, Pereira said. "Heads of corporations and businesses throughout Woodbridge are serving as principals in all the district schools for the day," she said. "We all enjoy it."
Earlier on Thursday, Woodbine's kindergarten class was going through food donations brought in by the children. "They were learning how to sort the food into categories. They all had fun," Pereira said.
As for Valanejad, he was delighted by what the kids were learning - some of it sounding a bit like advertising jingles from , of which Wakefern is the parent company.
"One kid said ShopRite's prices were the lowest, and another kid wrote a song about ShopRite," Valanejad said. "This is such fun to see them so involved."
The businesses located throughout the township participate in the event because "we are family. This is part of being a family in action," he said.
Valanejad noted that Wakefern's committment to the township was demonstrated by their 2007 moving of their corporate headquarters from Elizabeth to Keasbey, along with several hundred jobs.
"This event is a partnership between the community and our businesses," he said, adding that he had received the honor after an aide of Mayor John McCormac's called to notify him.
The district-wide event was topped off with a reception at Woodbridge High School.
Valanejad hoped to see more of the township schools in next year's 'Principal' event. "It's great to see what the kids are doing," he said.