An Interview with Nicole Nastari: A New Presence at SHC


This fall, SHC welcomed a new Associate Dean of Students. Nicole Nastari gained quite the reputation almost immediately, thanks to the most visible parts of her job: enforcing the dress code and managing detention. However, we wanted to get to know more about Ms. Nastari and find out what else she brings to the school. So we asked her a few questions.

Eleda West: Why did you decide to work at SHC?

Nicole Nastari: I think I have always wanted to work here. I went to SI but have always felt like SHC would be a good fit. And I’m from San Francisco, so I knew this was a caring community and people loved working here.

EW: What was your previous job?

NN: I was the Dean of students at Saint Joseph’s in Alameda. And I taught health and PE. 

EW: Have you always been a dean?

NN: I was a dean for four years. But I have also taught yoga, PE, and dance. 

EW: What is the worst thing about your job?

NN: Enforcing the dress code. And managing detention. And dealing with students that are disrespectful. That to me is the worst part. I can deal with the dress code, but the disrespect and push back is my least favorite thing. 

EW: What is the best thing about your job?

NN: Getting to know the students. Having positive relationships with students.

EW: Do you have any future plans for the school?

NN: I’d like to see health and wellness being more present in the curriculum. My passion is in health and wellness. And this job is actually very interconnected. For example, I had a student yesterday with a situation with cheating. Well, what’s underneath the cheating? He cheated because he ran out of time. Well, he ran out of time because he was distracted by his phone, didn’t get enough sleep, and then panicked. So all of those things underneath the issue are issues of health and wellness. This year, I’m working with Ms. Rinaldi and teaching some modules. Thinking big, I’d love to have a wellness center– a space where students can just get away. Like I find girls talking in bathrooms, and they are trying to get away, and they’re just in the bathroom. And I get it, you’re just trying to get some space, but right now, with the issues around vaping, unfortunately, you can’t congregate in the bathroom. But there’s a lack of space for people to go. 

EW: What are some things you do in your free time?

NN: I do yoga, I run, I love to cook, I love to thrift. You just have to know how to look. My husband’s a huge thrifter. We have thrift night on Fridays. Because, you know, we don’t go to bars or any of that stuff so our time is very different than other people’s. I love hanging out with my cats. I’m such a cat lady. And I’ll be a dog lady at some point soon, too. And I have three kids.

Do you like detention because you feel like you have better relationships with students?

NN: I’m very conflicted with detention. Do I think it works? Sometimes. Do I think we need to have it? Yes. Do I think there’s probably something better out there? Yes. I don’t always get time with kids in detention because there’s so many people in there. Like yesterday was a mess. I had a mass of sophomores who were horrible the entire time and I couldn’t control them and it was just messy, you know? And I sat there and thought this isn’t working. I think for some students it’s very effective, the thought of detention. They don’t want to go to detention. And for some students it’s like, whatever I don’t really care, I’ll sit there for a half hour. But I don’t know what else to do. What do you do if you don’t have detention? That’s the question. I do think, from my understanding, that detention is more effective this year than it’s ever been. With the tardies, in particular. We’ve seen the tardies stop. Mr. Sazo and I sat down and were like, oh my god, they stopped! And I had this feeling like, oh my god, it’s working! And that feels good to me because I don’t want kids to need to go to detention.

EW: Is there anything you would change about the dress code if it was up to you?

NN: Yes, I’d make it stricter actually. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s about enforceability. Anytime you slide and get a little shifty, it becomes harder to enforce. They came out really really hard this year and we’re gonna hold, like I don’t think we are going to change anything for next year. I think, you know, my former school was stricter. I’d like everyone to wear a polo everyday. If we say you have to wear a polo, you have to wear SHC outerwear, that to me is clear as day. Everybody has to do it. My former school was to colors of pants too: khaki or navy blue. It’s all perspective. When I came here, students were like, it’s so strict, blah blah blah. You guys came from basically free dress to much stricter. But for now, I think it’s good. I would say 90-95% of the school is wearing dress code. 

EW: I’ve been wearing dress code actually. Today is the only day I’m not wearing it. 

NN: But the thing is with you, for example, we talk about these two things together: dress code and detention. You’ve been in detention for dress code but I haven’t seen you in a few weeks. Right?

EW: Because I started wearing dress code.

NN: Because it works. In the end, it’s gonna work for most people. Detention doesn’t work for a slice of students. They’re there all the time with me. And I know them, I’m calling them out all the time. It’s nonstop. But for the most part, it works. And consistent enforcement. The simpler it is, the easier it is to enforce. If Mr. Sazo and I, and Mrs. Nerney and Mrs. Tran, are the only ones enforcing it, what happens? Like last year, everybody gave up.

EW: Do you think the price of dress code should go down, considering everyone has to wear it?

NN: As a parent myself, I don’t think it’s that expensive. If you’re going to buy Nike sweatshirt or a crew neck, like my son wants one for Christmas, and I was like, it’s 50 dollars for a crew neck sweatshirt! The Irish one is cheaper. So, is it more expensive for a parent? I get all my daughter’s clothes at Goodwill. I literally got a Polo polo – that’s a $50 polo for $4 at Goodwill and it was brand new. So when people tell me it’s expensive, if you’re getting the Sacred Heart polos, then yeah. But if you know how to bargain shop, I actually think it’s cheaper. My daughter can wear the same Sacred Heart jacket for three days in a row and nobody will notice. 

EW: But I have this problem where I don’t want to wear the same thing everyday because I feel like people do notice.

NN: Anytime my daughter goes down this road of “I don’t want to wear this everyday,” I’ll be like okay, lets go from the outside perspective. Do you notice what a friend is wearing every single day and take note of it? She’s like, no.

EW: Well, I won’t remember the next day. So I guess that’s true.

NN: You’ve got to logically get into your thoughts. It doesn’t make any sense. Do you actually think that person is spending time thinking about that? Are you spending time thinking about what she’s wearing? Nope. Do you care? Do you have judgement? You’ve got to really get out of these irrational thoughts sometimes. Sorry, I do a lot of podcast listening. One of my favorite podcasts is by this woman who’s a master coach and she does a lot of thought work. I do it with my daughter a lot. Sometimes we become victims of our own thoughts and our thoughts don’t make any sense and you’re in complete control of your thoughts and cannot control anybody else’s. For teenagers especially, they get so caught up in what other people think all the time. It rules your life. It doesn’t have to.

EW: What podcast is this?

NN: I can’t say it out loud. Are you recording me? It’s Unf*ck Your Brain. But that’s how it’s spelled, with the star. She does a lot of work with women, especially around body positivity. She’s phenomenal. I listen to her and she just blows my head out of the water. As a woman who’s getting older, she talks about how do we lean into ageism with the expectations that we’re supposed to look younger. I turned 40 and somebody was like, 40 is the new 30, and I was like, why do you say that to me? Are you going to say that to a man? No, you’re going to say that to me because I somehow, as I’m turning 40, shouldnt own that I’m a woman in her 40’s. I should want to be 30. I don’t want to be 30. I’m in such a better place now than when I was 30. I own my age, what’s wrong with that? We as women have to continue to own and live in our aging selves. That’s where my feminism gets strong. What are we leaning into? A lot of my friends are getting botox right now. This is when it happens. When your face starts to slide down because gravity wins and it’s always going to, right? It’s hard and it’s a battle. 

EW: Do you notice any misogyny or issues with feminism in this school? That you feel like you could talk about?

NN: It’s my first time working at a traditional San Francisco Catholic school. And, yes. It’s the first time I feel like, as a woman, I really need to stand in my power strongly. I’ve never had to do that. The school I came from just was not that way; it wasn’t set up like that. I never felt like that. I said to another woman who’s been here for ten years, “Is it me or is there like a toxic masculinity?” And she said, “Oh honey, it’s in the walls.” Do I feel that? Yes. Do I feel like I’m standing like ready to go all the time? Yes. And do you know where I feel it? It’s a lot of the boys. The boys won’t push back against him [Sazo] and they’ll push back against me. I’m like, oh, are you mansplaining? Because that’s not going to work for me. The girls don’t do it. It’s the boys. It’s the white boys, especially. So I’m dealing with a white privilege issue, which I’m very aware of. I’ve done a lot of work with white fragility and white privilege because I worked in my former school with kids of mostly color. So I’m very aware of that issue. It’s usually the white boys, because, you know, they can talk their way out of anything. And that does not work for me. I’m raising white boys at home and I’m very clear about their privilege. I tell them, you have privilege, you need to own it, you need to stand in it, so yeah, it’s hard. I don’t know what to do about it but continue to stand strong and not let it happen. But it happens all the time. The women that work here all feel it. I think we all feel it. I think it was a step for me to get here. 

Clearly, Ms. Nastari is bringing a new perspective to SHC. Despite the bulk of her reputation being based on her commitment to the dress code, there is a lot more to how she hopes to change this school. Now that we’ve gotten to know her better, we think she has a lot to offer here. Hopefully you can see that too! Next time she’s dress coding you, remember to show her some respect because she’s here to defend a lot more than just the dress code.