Having taught her younger sister and then her own two daughters, Lisa Leopold-Chaparro has long pursued her passion for educating children. She is now a co-lead teacher at a private preschool in Manhattan. Drawn to the play-based learning environment, she began working there as an assistant teacher several years ago. 

 “My love of teaching,” says Leopold-Chaparro, “inspired me to turn the tables and become a student.” She decided to enroll in college when she was 47 and is now graduating with a B.A. in early childhood education. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester she has been enrolled at college. “It just goes to prove it’s never too late to learn,” she says, “even for a teacher.” 

Before Leopold-Chaparro decided to enroll in the School of Education, she spent 10 years running her own business, Goodiebites. At Goodiebites, she created custom-designed cake pops for a wide variety of clients, including MTV, Google, Fendi, and Hill’s Science Diet. Even while Leopold-Chaparro was producing creative confections for high-profile clients, she was still teaching. She led classes on cake-pop design at her studio and taught gelato-making at a Manhattan ice cream shop. She also assisted with culinary classes at the retailer Sur La Table. 

 Leopold-Chaparro loves to play, whether it be with her four cats, a game of Skee-Ball with her family at the arcade, or along with Jeopardy! contestants from her couch. And she believes that playing and learning go hand in hand in the early childhood classroom. “I know that education never has to be boring,” she says.  

 Leopold-Chaparro found that her coursework helped her to understand each child’s individuality and how that individuality can inform and enrich teaching techniques. She looks for inspiration from early 20th-century education psychologist Lev Vygotsky, whose ideas on the way teachers can guide child development—building on what children already know to help them gain independence—resonate strongly with her.

The holistic approach to childhood education that has characterized her coursework will inform Leopold-Chaparro’s future teaching methods and allow her to be a true partner in the educational journeys of her students. “Using the knowledge I’ve gained at Brooklyn College benefits not only myself,” she says, “but also my future students.” 

Leopold-Chaparro was awarded the Guttman Transfer Scholarship, offered to outstanding CUNY community college students after she graduated from Borough of Manhattan Community College two years ago. Upon receiving her B.A., she will continue at Brooklyn College in the early childhood education graduate program. She plans to work with at-risk students in public schools.