Renee Owen’s life mission is to bring wellbeing and harmony into education. This is her twelfth year as executive director at Rainbow Community School, a holistic private school in Asheville, NC, that spans preschool through eighth grade. She is also a founder of Rainbow Institute, an adult learning arm of Rainbow Community School, which hosts the More Than Mindfulness Conference each October. Renee Owen is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University Teachers College in an Adult Learning and Leadership program based on transformative learning. Her forthcoming dissertation is about the experience of K12 teachers who imbed spiritual development within their teaching practices.
West has served many roles at Rainbow over the years. From lead teacher of second and third and multiage classrooms, to the professional development coordinator and mentor teacher and now as Rainbow Community School’s curriculum coordinator and development director and Rainbow Institute’s Director of Operations. As a lifelong learner, these varied opportunities have yielded much personal and professional growth, increased enthusiasm and connection to Rainbow’s unique model and philosophy as well as continual interest and motivation to support Rainbow’s growth.
West also brings with her a decade of teaching natural sciences and environmental education to children of all ages. West first became interested in teaching while working with children in environmental education centers and camps. Her own love of the natural world and her joy in sharing this world with children inspired her to pursue a teaching career that used “nature’s theater” as a primary learning environment. Much of West’s own education took place in nature’s classroom where she studied the unique ecosystems of the Appalachian region and the southeastern Barrier Islands, the western United States, and New Zealand.
West’s educational philosophy is anchored in place based and experiential learning. She works to nurture a love of learning by fostering in students deep connections to themselves, their community, and the natural world around them. She strongly believes that direct, authentic and meaningful experience is the primary stepping stone to understanding.
West holds a Bachelors Degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of the South, a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Education from the Teton Science Schools, a Master’s of Education from Montana State University, a school administration license from Appalachian State University, and a graduate certificate in non-profit management from Duke University. She also won WNC’s Best of the Best Teacher – 2nd place in 2012 and 1st place in 2013!
West is also an avid rock climber and travels nationally and internationally with her dog, Willow to climb. West is also a competitive bodybuilder and loves to trail run, cycle, paddle board and backpack.