Get to Know Our Staff: Rachael Brownell-Swain

Kate Raven, Communications Manager
Rachael began working at Greenwood in 2014 as an Educational Assistant following three years of teaching English as a Second Language, both locally and in Korea. She has had many roles at the school; you may know her as Greenwood’s Coordinator, Service Learning or as an Adviser. Over the last few years, Rachael has also become increasingly involved in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at Greenwood, acting as DEI Staff Liaison for 2020-2021 before taking on her current director position. 

As Director; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Outreach, Rachael works with staff to ensure that all staff members have a foundational knowledge and understanding of anti-racism and anti-oppression education. This solid foundation is critical, as it is what staff members will build upon to create positive and inclusive communities at the school.

“A lot of this work is quiet work,” Rachael says. “It’s getting people to recognize their own relationship to privilege and power, unpack biases, understand educational philosophies, and fully comprehend their role and what they bring to Greenwood as a member of the community. It’s admirable of the school to not skip this work, even though it’s not flashy, because it means our work on DEI will be sustainable.”

Working closely with the Principal and Deputy Head of School, Rachael is also undertaking a systematic examination of Greenwood’s systems and structures - including curriculum - to ensure that they support and foster diversity, equity and inclusion. She will then bring recommendations to the school’s Senior Leaders regarding changes to programming and policies as needed to bring them in line with this goal. 

All of this work, Rachael emphasizes, is heavily data driven. “If we want to know whether what we’re doing is working, we need benchmarks around who is in our space and what their needs are,” Rachael says. She has used a number of different tools to collect data, most notably an adapted version of the Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools (RIDES) assessment created by Harvard University. “This data collection provides a roadmap for the future,” Rachael says. “Once we see what the data show, we’ll know what we need to do to move forward.”

Rachael also oversees Greenwood’s Service Learning program for all grades. To facilitate this outreach, she finds and establishes partnerships with local organizations, sources volunteer opportunities for students and runs the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) program for Grade 9 students. She also works with all Grade 7 and 8 students on a weekly basis to explore social justice as it pertains to community and to help students create grade bonds and social connections through the lens of inclusion, equity and belonging. The relationships Rachael herself creates with students through this program is one of her favourite parts of her job.

“Every student in Grades 7 and 8 goes through the Outreach program, so I get to know all of them - that’s very rare,” Rachael says. “There are so many opportunities to have personal connections with both staff and students.”

One of Rachael’s main goals for this year is to encourage every student and staff member to consider, and act on, one question: What is mine to change? “This is an ongoing process, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Rachael says. But that process, she emphasizes, makes the difference between performative allyship and real, lasting allyship. “We want to get to the point where we don’t have to use a ‘DEI lens’ to determine where change needs to happen - that lens becomes the way we look at the world.”

Rachael has a long-standing relationship with Greenwood and its surrounding community. Her mother, Jennifer Walcott, taught English at the school for many years before retiring in 2014. She lives in the neighbourhood with her family, and her 5-year-old son attends school in the area. She is invested in Greenwood’s continued growth and progress, and she sees that same investment in her fellow staff members and students alike.

“The people in this building really want to be here,” she says. “That makes it a very special place to be.”
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Greenwood College School

443 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto, ON M4S 2L8
Tel: 416 482 9811
We acknowledge with gratitude the Ancestral lands upon which our main campus is situated. These lands are the Ancestral territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Anishinabek and the Wendake. The shared responsibility of this land is honoured in the Dish with One Spoon Treaty and as settlers, we strive to care for the land, the waters, and all creatures in the spirit of peace. We are responsible for respecting and supporting the enduring presence of all First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. When away from this campus we vow to be respectful to the land by protecting and honouring it. We will create relationships with the people and the land we may visit by understanding the territories we enter and the nations who inhabit them.
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