Naughty and Nice: Teacher Buttons It Up For the Classroom

You probably haven't met Ms. Lopez -- the art teacher at Public School 76 in Brooklyn. But she looks exactly like you'd imagine an elementary school art teacher to look. You know, chestnut brown curls pinned in a million places. Hand-made dresses sewn to perfection, worn with neon tights. She's 32-years-old, no wedding ring.

But that's where the art teacher stereotype ends.

I know it's hard to imagine, but Ms. Lopez, like all other teachers, has a life. She doesn't live inside the school and sleep under her desk. In fact, she's actually sleeping with Mr. Velazquez, the assistant principal. She's got more scandal going on than the former New York governor.

Meet the Ms. Lopez the student's never see.

Ms. Lopez is better known as Jalisa to her friends and family. She lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her best friend Carrie, a 27-year-old associate producer for a talk show.

Carrie and Jalisa's apartment is a tiny -- but adorable. You may have seen it before. Their modern-romantic house tour was a featured in Apartment Therapy's "Small is Cool" contest last year. The $2400 a month two-bedroom is all they can afford on their combined $100,000 a year salary. Between the two of them, they pay $720 a month in school loans. They also enjoy a few $14 cocktails once in a while and who can blame them for an occasional fashion splurge at a SoHo boutique.

Jalisa went with her passion when choosing an undergraduate major at Boston University. She didn't realize until after graduation that a bachelor's degree in painting would only earn her $22,000 a year at a Newbury Street Art Gallery. Two years after she swore she was finished forever with school, she started classes at Teachers College at Columbia University. She makes $53,000 a year now -- a Master's degree later and three years into her new career.

"I know I shouldn't admit this. But I wasn't one of those little girls who dreamed of becoming a teacher," Lopez said. "I am an artist. Teaching is fine. But it's what I do to pay the bills."

Lopez's lifestyle is certainly more of the carefree artist than the buttoned-up art teacher, not that she'd ever let her students in on the secret.

Getting back to that little affair with the assistant principal.

It all started during one of her required classroom observations. She needs three satisfactory ratings this school year to earn tenure for next fall. Only Mr. Velazquez preferred to drop in at least three times a week.

"I figured he had a crush, but I didn't mind. It's a rough neighborhood and some of these kids are bigger than me," Lopez said. They (the kids) don't threaten me when there's a man in the room."

So how did a little extra observation turn into an x-rated tryst?

"He called me into his office for a 'formal meeting.' And yeah, it's so cliché ... but it was hot," she said. Lopez says the extra "side drama" helps her get through the difficult days. "I take a lot of abuse. This is the inner-city," she said. "But I have control of my boss. That could keep anybody going." But Mr. Velazquez isn't the only reason Ms. Lopez makes it through the school day. "I do have those amazing moments when I really get through to a child. I watch them create something for the first time. That's when it's worth it," she said.

And there's also help from Mr. Brown, a third grade teacher whose room is right next-door.

Theirs is a bit more relationship-like. They have lunch together every day in his backroom. He orders Chinese and she brings in an organic salad. They go out for drinks after work and commiserate. Sometimes she spends time at his apartment. But she'd never dream of taking him home to the apartment she shares with Carrie.

"These guys aren't the kind of guy I'd like in my own setting. Does that even make sense?" she said. "I mean, I still have a roommate in her 20s. We still post our drunken weekend pictures on facebook. These guys are way too old for that."

So by now, you're probably searching for Jalisa's drunken escapades. Don't expect to find her.

"I'm not trying to lose my job here. I know how to set everything to private and I certainly don't use my real name," she said. "I find my friends, they don't find me."

If you did find Jalisa's profile, you'd notice she's "in a relationship." So is Mr. Brown her boyfriend? No way. Jalisa's man is Carrie's age –- a hipster graphic designer who lives on the Lower East Side.

So much for those art teacher assumptions.

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