Topanga Elementary School Alumni. Where Are They Now?

By Amy Weisberg, M.Ed. NBCT
Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.By Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.      February 5, 2021

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Topanga Elementary School Alumni. Where Are They Now?
The joys of being a teacher extend beyond the classroom. We are so lucky to have the time to get to know the children and their families while they are in our class and in many cases, to continue the friendships as the children grow up. It is rewarding to see the children grow up and follow their path to adulthood and learn about where that path has taken them. Often as teachers, we wonder, “Where are they now?” Discovering the answer is one of my favorite experiences. I am always happy to hear about their lives. With this in mind, I am excited to write about former TECS students, some were my own and others whom I knew from the school. An Ambassador for Animals Charlotte Trapman-O’Brien is 30 years old and culminated from Topanga Elementary Charter School in 2000. I had Charlotte in my multi-age K, 1, 2 class and got to know her and her family well over the three years. I also had her younger brother, Yannick, in class. I will always remember when I asked the children to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up, Charlotte drew herself holding a sign. I asked her what she wanted to be, and she said she wanted to be someone who holds signs to make things better. She wanted to be a protester. This five-year-old knew she wanted to make a difference, and though she is not a professional protester, she is making a big difference and is following her dream. What do you remember about your experience at TECS? Activities you participated in? Teachers you remember? Friendships? Is there anything that really had an impact on you? I remember feeling free up there on top of the hill. I was a bit of a tomboy and a weird kid. I had determined ideas about how I wanted to dress and act, and luckily for me, I don’t ever remember being made fun of or discouraged from that. It felt like there were lots of kids who were a little bit different so we all sort of fit together. My favorite teachers were definitely Mrs. Weisberg and Mr. Walker. Both were so kind and encouraging and excited about whatever they were teaching. I know I participated in anything animal I could, and I have fond memories of learning about bat research in the canyon, clean-ups in the creek, and field trips to The Nature of Wildworks. I think those things, being outside and talking so much about nature and the ecosystem of the canyon, had a big impact on what I wanted to do. Around 8 or 9 is when I decided I wanted to work with animals and, specifically, to work with big cats. Knowing what I was like at that age, I’m sure I told anyone who was near me long enough and I don’t remember any adult telling me that I couldn’t do that. It would have been an easy dream to quash. Instead, it just sort of blossomed from there. What higher education or training have you pursued? A Bachelor of Science in Psychology, an A.S in Animal Science, and a certification in Exotic Animal Training and Management
What do you love/enjoy about your career path? Well, I ended up doing exactly what I dreamed of, working with big cats, but my dream has definitely taken a little different shape than I thought.
I realized, while in school for exotic animal training at Moorpark College, that the best feeling came from sharing my love of animals with kids. Whether it’s a big presentation for hundreds of kids, or just answering questions from one curious child, getting to see someone have that same excitement that I had as a kid looking at animals is incredible. I’ve pivoted from just working with big cats to working with ambassador animals, including cheetahs, who are specially trained to do presentations and really engage with people. It lets me combine my love of animals with the passion for teaching I discovered. Something I love about being a zookeeper is that there are so many possibilities. I started out thinking I just wanted to work with cats, but over time, I’ve worked with so much more, from birds to sea lions, to giraffes and venomous snakes. Now I’m in my dream position working with about 30 different species of animals every day. I also feel fortunate to be a part of the zookeeping community which is incredibly tight knit. I recently started a business making animal designs for stickers and other items to raise money for conservation causes; the support I have received from keepers all over the world is incredible. There is such a drive and passion to share knowledge and encouragement with each other and I love being part of it. I could go on and on and on. Just like when she was a kid.
Charlotte’s art shop is on Instagram @animalia_designs; or Etsy, etsy.com/ listing/911336503/cheetah-sticker. Her company Facebook page is Animalia Designs.
Amy Weisberg, M.Ed.
      February 5, 2021

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