Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Wellness Woman

Posted 05/24/2017 by Mia Grijalva

Teacher Brittany Nicolo is enthusiastic about going beyond fitness to help teachers with their mental and social wellness. photo by Mia Grijalva

Brittany Nicolo demonstrates her passions through teaching success to her students and wellness to those around her.

Due to teacher Brittany Nicolo’s personal interest in the wellness of her students as well as her colleagues, the physical education department at Thomas Jefferson High School has been able to expand fitness education as Nicolo becomes the new wellness coach for TJ.

Nicolo was born in Denver, Colorado before moving to Littleton at the age of 5. After attending Heritage High School, Nicolo then spent five years in Minnesota, attending the University of Northwestern. While Nicolo knew she wanted to major in teaching, she didn’t know if she wanted to be a Spanish teacher or a P.E teacher, hence the reason she chose Northwestern due to them offering both degrees. “Having those other phenomenal teachers growing up and having the desire to help others learn, I knew I wanted to be a teacher in the sixth grade,” stated Nicolo.

Despite her love for language and fitness education, Nicolo decided to get degrees in both subjects which resulted in five degrees total: a bachelor’s degree of science in Physical Education and in Health Education, a bachelor’s of arts in Spanish Studies and Biblical Studies, a master’s in education with a specialization in Athletics, and a minor in Coaching. After receiving her teacher’s certification in Colorado, Nicolo then substituted for two years and worked with schools like Morey Middle School and Abraham Lincoln High School before finally calling TJ her home in 2013. “I love being here. This is not a job. Every morning I get to wake up, teach, and have the opportunity to demonstrate passion every day here, not a lot of people can do that,” added Nicolo.

Nicolo teaches four different classes that all range in grade levels: Team Life Activities, Bodyworks, Dance, and Swimming. Nicolo takes a personal interest in making sure her students have self motivation and determination to increase mental and physical wellness in order to achieve their goals. “Nicolo’s classes are fast paced but very fun giving students the allowance to have a good time while learning things like sports,” said sophomore Alexander Wilson who used to take Nicolo’s Team Life Activities class and is current teacher assistant for her. “Since we do play sports, she doesn’t accept bad sportsmanship but she accepts encouragement; she gives everyone an equal opportunity. She really does her best to make the class fun that way.”

Nicolo’s love for fitness and working out is not only demonstrated within her classes but  outside of her students with the TJ faculty. “I just love movement. I love being able to converse with adults and kids,” Nicolo added. Twice a semester for four weeks, Nicolo teaches fitness classes such as boot camp and Biggest Loser competitions with faculty members that want to get in better shape. The classes consist of things like swimming, step up, and peak challenges, as well as a combination of lifting weights and cardio. As far as the competitions go, Nicolo has participating members get weighed in at Max Muscle and then measure their core throughout the competition as they do their own workouts. “At the end, there are three different winners based on three different categories; percentage of weight loss, percentage of inches lost, and percentage of body fat loss,” explained Nicolo. Through the classes and competitions, Nicolo provides teachers with the great opportunity to get some physical fitness through school while competing with colleagues. “I love the challenge, the positive effects on the body, mind, and soul. Motivation is much higher when there is a collective goal, when we encourage each other,” explained Linda Estlund, social studies teacher and boot camp regular. “She is a friend, a life coach, and one of the kindest people I know. TJ is so lucky to have her.”

Prior to October, 2016, Nicolo always held her fitness classes, but recently, this past January, Nicolo officially became the wellness coach for the faculty at TJ. “I wanted to become the wellness coach at TJ because teachers, paras, secretaries, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and counselors work so much with students and parents that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves,” explained Nicolo. “Being the wellness coach, I’m responsible for the physical, emotional, and mental wellness of the teachers through wellness camps.” Some things Nicolo runs within these camps are physical elements, like boot camps and Biggest Loser, affirmation cups, wellness walks, ping pong tournaments, pottery painting, and canvas and capri suns, a different spin on Canvas and Cocktails. “Through this program, my goal was to create an atmosphere where these individuals felt as though they were appreciated and acknowledged on a different level,” elaborated Nicolo. Based on a recent survey here at TJ, it appears as though the mental, social, and physical wellness has significantly increased since the survey previously taken in October. “I am so thoroughly impressed this year with the amounts of participation,” said Nicolo.

Outside of school, Nicolo enjoys doing things with her husband, especially things that are outside and involve moment. “We love to go ride our bikes, go to the park outside our house, love hiking, racquetball, swimming, soccer, any kind of movement,” Nicolo stated. Besides enjoying being outside or participating in any type of exercise, Nicolo also enjoys doing things like singing, playing the piano, knitting, crocheting, and painting. “I definitely have an artsy outlet because I move all day through exercise and fitness,” she explained. “It’s nice to go do some fun art stuff.”

Nicolo’s inspiration from her students and staff drives her to demonstrate her passion through her students to give them the opportunity to set her class apart from the rest.