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Rachael Owunwanne

Director of Teaching and Learning

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At Buffalo Commons, there is joy in learning for everyone!

Rachael Owunwanne
My Story

I grew up as the oldest of three in a hard-working family on Long Island. I often think I’ve become a perfect mix of my parents. My mother, who emigrated from Panama as a child, taught me how to work hard, stay focused, and remain determined, even when it seemed like you could not persevere any longer. My father taught me how to slow down, live a little daringly, and enjoy the moments we are usually so quick to overlook in the constant rush of it all. These traits have served me well as I worked my way through college at SUNY Geneseo, and then again in Arizona while pursuing my graduate degree in Education.

Before Commons, I’ve had the great privilege to travel, live, and work in many places including Phoenix, throughout South and Central America, Harlem, and Philadelphia. I moved to Buffalo in 2019 with my husband, Chiwuike (Chi Chi) and our two children. Though we’ve only been here for a short time, we’ve met and worked with so many wonderful people, which has given us the opportunity to connect with and feel a part of our community. I have already fallen in love with this city!

What Brings Me Joy

My children…they are amazing! I love just watching them sometimes. I love when my son comes into the kitchen and asks to help me cook. Even when I am in a rush and could do it faster myself, I am always glad that I said yes because seeing him discover his new mixing skill is pretty awesome! I love when my daughter pretends she is a teacher and encourages her brother when he spells his name correctly. And I adore when they want to cuddle. I know I will miss that soon as they grow and decide I am no longer cool enough. Outside of my family and my work, I love reading, especially children’s and young adult books. My husband teases me when I come home with books and tell him they are for the children. He knows they are really for me! I also love music and food. Any opportunity I can find to try new local restaurants or listen to live music, I jump at it! And if I can find them both in the same place, I am elated.

What I'm Good At

I think I am good at listening. I really want to understand the people I encounter and work with on a regular basis. I have some strong opinions about some things, but I’ve also learned that “my way” is not the only “right way.” So I work very hard to ask more questions than I give answers to. I am also pretty good at taking big ideas and lofty goals and breaking them down into practical and realistic steps. I think it’s one of the things that will make me a good support for Commons’ teachers- I can help them bring their classroom dreams to life.

What the World Needs

Love. I know it sounds so cliche, but it’s true. In everyone’s attempt to be heard or prove a point, we’ve all stopped listening to one another. People seem to be unwilling to connect with folks who are different from themselves, much less consider anyone else’s lived experience. And in our diminished listening and connecting, we’re losing our ability to empathize and value others. The world needs a lot of things, I’m sure, but we’d be in a much better place if we were grounded in more love. What better place to build that foundation than in a school who is in partnership with its families. That is one of the reasons I am so excited about Commons- I know that everything we do will be rooted in the love we have for each and every person who walks through our doors.

Why Commons?

Commons is the kind of learning community where everyone’s unique gifts and ambitions are honored and utilized. It’s a place where each person’s voice and dreams not only matter, but contribute to the collective goals. And while we all acknowledge our challenges, we can rest assured that we are all supported in overcoming them. At Commons we believe there is so much more to “a good education” than grades and test scores. We believe that each person’s education is the fulfillment of curiosity for the individual and progress for the community. And the best part is that we do this in a caring, supportive, and cheerful learning environment. School should not just be something that our children have to suffer through because of the proverbial promise of a better future. At Commons, there is joy in learning for everyone!