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Engel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1980 and earned her Ph.D in developmental psychology from CUNY Graduate Center in 1985.
She has taught all ages from preschool through graduate school, most recently at Williams, Smith and Bennington Colleges. While at Bennington, she developed a master of arts in teaching program that included certification for preschool through high school teachers. She is a co-founder and educational advisor to an experimental school in New York State called the Hayground School, where among other things, she guides curriculum development and supervises teachers.
Engel is the author of The Stories Children Tell (1994, WH Freeman) and Context is Everything: The Nature of Memory (1999, WH Freeman) and has published articles on narrative development, memory development, and creativity during childhood.
Engel is currently interested in looking at children's curiosity in classroom settings, children's narratives about one another, and the development of understanding about other people's beliefs and intentions.
In addition to directing the Williams Program in Teaching, Engel teaches a range of courses in the psychology department including Introduction to Psychology, a senior seminar, a course on education, and a course on adolescence.