Driven by a desire to create art every single day, Sarah Nicoliello ’19 unlocked her creativity and self-confidence at Elms.

Creative Self-Expression

Every artist goes through a period of self-discovery when they define their signature style. For Sarah Nicoliello ’19, this transformation took place at Elms, where she linked her passion for portraiture with teaching.

Photo of Sarah Nicoliello '19, an early childhood education and fine arts double major
“Art is a way of expressing one’s self,” she said. “I feel like everyone needs that, especially at a younger age. I’d love to be an art teacher one day.”

As a double major in early childhood education and fine arts, Sarah splits her time between the classroom and the studio. She was drawn to early childhood education (grades K-2) because young children have a contagious sense of wonder.

“It’s just great to have that excitement about learning,” said the Ware, MA, local. “I want to really connect with my students — I’m into Star Wars and Disney, all the stuff they like.”

To gain extra experience before her teaching practicum this coming spring, Sarah volunteers in the preschool room at Belchertown Kids Camp. She credits her friendly personality and limitless patience with helping her design fun lessons on art, science, and reading.

“I like taking my classes outside and looking for objects to explore,” she said. “We compare and contrast things like leaves and rocks. They learn by experience.”

'Art is a way of expressing one’s self. I feel like everyone needs that, especially at a younger age.'

In addition to observing classes at Stefanik Memorial School in Chicopee, MA, and Stanley M. Koziol Elementary School in Ware, MA, Sarah works closely with the faculty at Elms to define her teaching strategies.

Photo of Sarah Nicoliello '19, a double major in early childhood education and fine arts
Prof. Rene shares the most amazing stories of her own teaching experience,” Sarah said. “I feel like that makes me more comfortable going into the profession, knowing that it’s okay to make mistakes. You can pick yourself back up.”

Even though she sees herself as an artist through and through, one of Sarah’s favorite education classes was, of all things, based in science.

“The class was Inquiry-Based Science Methods, and we did STEM lessons,” she recalled. “We’d get random objects to work with like popsicles, straws, paper clips — and we were told to build something out of that.”

“I really want to do that with kids as their teacher,” she added. “I thought that was really creative.”

Entering her senior year, Sarah has already passed all four of her MTELs (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure). Elms requires its education majors to take their exams before they start their teaching practica — a definite advantage in Sarah’s eyes.

“I’ve seen people at other schools with the same major as me wait to do their MTELs until the very end, and they have a really hard time passing them,” she said.

Solo Show

Before she came to Elms, Sarah drew portraits exclusively in pencil. After Nanci Costanzo, associate professor of art, pushed her to branch out into other media like acrylic paints, Sarah felt her creativity flourish. In spring 2018, she displayed her work the basement of the Alumnae Library.

“It was surreal,” she recalled. “I just couldn’t believe I had my own show.”

Star Wars portraits
Inspired by the visual styles of Van Gogh and American painter Robert Henri, Sarah’s exhibit featured portraits of family members, animals, and celebrities, done in a range of media including pencil, acrylic, and linoprint.

“I feel like I’m really coming into my own with my art now,” she said. “I just got into painting last spring. Compared with where I was then, there’s been so much growth.”

Studying art with her peers benefited Sarah’s creative process. Even more importantly, though, it transformed her self-perception.

“Art is important to my creativity, but also my ability to work together with others, since you have critiques of your work,” she said. “It definitely helped me come out of my shell — I used to be so shy.”

“I’ve really grown as an artist here at Elms,” she added. “I try to create every day. It can be challenging, because college life is so busy. But, I will always find time for art.”