Renee Owen has directed Rainbow Community School since July of 2007. Renee received her Masters Degree in educational leadership at the University of Colorado and is working on her Doctor of Education degree through Columbia University Teacher’s College. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan. She also holds an Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University and a Waldorf Foundations Certificate from The Center for Anthroposophy, and she completed the 2013 Future of Learning program through Harvard Graduate School of Education.
She was also featured in The Asheville Citizen Times, talking about Rainbow Community School and her journey.
Renee recognizes that one of Rainbow’s greatest strengths is the incredible amount of love expressed throughout the school. Here children feel safe to explore and express themselves. Parents feel connected and supported. Teachers are encouraged to take risks to create magical and meaningful learning experiences. Relationships are rich. She jokes, “It’s impossible to get through a day at Rainbow without a hug!”
Renee knew that she was hired to maintain all that is magical about Rainbow, while building a cohesive P-8 curriculum that is academically excellent and allows all types of learners to soar. During her tenure, she has worked hard to build a faculty that she calls the dream team: “The character and skill of our faculty astounds me. It has been gratifying to work with them in building our new academic program that is an innovative balance between rigor and harmony with child development. We have exceeded my expectations — our academic program is, in my view, the finest in the region. Rainbow students should be accepted into any program they apply for and able to pursue all their life dreams.”
Prior to joining RCS, Renee founded and directed Paradox Valley School, a charter school in southwestern Colorado. During her eight-year tenure, Paradox Valley School won numerous national and state awards for excellence in teaching, student academic achievement and in the arts. When her family chose to move to a more populated area, Renee was captivated by Rainbow’s holistic curriculum. To read more about Renee’s previous educational experience and her journey to Asheville, please read the Mountain Xpress feature article “From Hawaii to Paradox to Haywood Road“ published in 2007.
In her daily encounters, Renee is continually reminded that Rainbow’s approach to education is as much a celebration of life as it is a celebration of learning. Each school day provides new opportunities for discovery, contemplation, collaboration, creative expression, playfulness, peacemaking, and connecting with the natural world.
Under Renee’s leadership, Rainbow has steadily increased it’s enrollment, leading to a need for campus expansion. Thanks to fundraising efforts, she led the school in developing a new, imaginative and nature-oriented playground and purchasing additional property to expand the grounds and to renovate extra classroom space. Rainbow’s campus now encompasses five acres, seven buildings (including the new auditorium and community center), an athletic field, and extensive gardens and grounds. This provides the fertile ground to dramatically increase diversity and push for inclusion of a wide demographic at Rainbow, something Renee considers a moral imperative. In addition, Rainbow’s vision now includes serving vulnerable populations throughout Asheville by partnering with Children First and other non-profit organizations.
When Renee is not serving her larger school family, she savors the opportunity to spend time with her husband and three children. Her oldest daughter is working in the Philadelphia School District after graduating from Kenyon College, and her youngest daughter is in college in Minneapolis and working for the Minnesota Opera. Geronimo, her youngest is a sophomore at Carolina Day School. Renee is personally committed to social justice, peace, and environmental sustainability, and works toward these causes with her family. She was awarded by the mayor of Asheville the Strive Not to Drive Leadership Award and was Person of the Week on WLOS. She and her husband relish quiet moments on the river.