Sara Luciani credits her success, in part, to MCLA’s Leadership Academy. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Marist College, she both graduated with a master’s degree in education from MCLA and completed its leadership program in 2014.
Educator Sara Luciani’s goal was to become a school principal by the age of 30. Three years ago, she turned 30 and became the head of Stearns Elementary School in Pittsfield, Mass. “I’m pretty young to be a principal,” she said, “and I knew it would be difficult, but I did it.”
Before taking the helm at Stearns, Luciani served as an assistant principal in the Gateway Regional School District in Huntington, Mass., taught special education for grades 3-6 at C.T. Plunkett School in Adams, Mass., and served in the Baltimore, Md., City School System with Teach for America.
Luciani credits her success, in part, to MCLA’s Leadership Academy. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Marist College, she both graduated with a master’s degree in education from MCLA and completed its leadership program in 2014.
Because I went to the Leadership Academy, I knew who I was and what I wanted to accomplish.
What attracted her to the Academy was its unique focus on the arts, which was important to the former high school drama student. “You’re relying on your creative side when you have to reinvent yourself every day in front of kids,” Luciani said. “Tapping into who you are as a person through art pushed people’s boundaries, made them able to express themselves in multiple ways, and taught them how to be uncomfortable."
“Because I went to the Leadership Academy, I knew who I was and what I wanted to accomplish,” she said. “I learned that everyone needs to rely on each other — I don’t have experience in everything, and we need to learn and work together. Without Leadership Academy, my approach may have been different. There are people who lead with a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude and that doesn’t work out well. Being able to lead from a position of ‘this is a team and we’re all in this together’ made a big difference.”
Luciani said she loved the diversity of MCLA’s education master’s program and how its teaching staff hailed from all over the country. “It was nice to have people from outside of our geographic area who shared the same values and mindsets,” she said. “What I enjoyed most was how we celebrated and analyzed who we were as people, which is important when you want to lead others. …Here you really dig in to who you are, which I don’t think all programs do.”
As schools have shifted to online learning, Luciani has gone from leading a small building to leading from afar. “In some ways, it’s bonded us because you get to see people at their houses with pictures of their kids in the background and their cats coming into the video meetings. You realize people have different things going on and they’re doing the best they can.”
Luciani said the Stearns teachers and staff have been incredible, running Google classrooms and virtual meetings, and connecting with families online. “When you’re 6 or 8 years old, birthday parties at school are a big deal,” she said. So she and her teachers have been calling students at home on their birthdays. “I’m proud of what my staff has done,” she said. “It’s incredible to watch.”
Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.