Finding Balance with Cynthia Chasteen

August 13, 2018

We sat down with Chispa Project board member Dr. Cynthia Chasteen to learn about her book preferences, how she finds balance, and how she lives the Chispa Project mission in her everyday life. 


Teacher Training


Balancing with girls from the children’s home


Spontaneous yoga with some of the girls from the children’s home

Cynthia Chasteen is a teacher trainer specializing in teaching English as a second language (TESOL), and a yoga and mindfulness teacher based out of Columbus, Missouri. Last week she took a “vacation” from her packed schedule to come volunteer with us for the week! Cynthia’s whirlwind trip included teacher trainings, trainings for guardians at a children’s home, hiking, teaching yoga classes for Chispa Project employees, and putting labels on almost 300 books.
So tell us a little about yourself, what got you to where you are now?

One of my first loves was sports. I studied journalism at Auburn for undergrad, but one of my proudest moments as a student was when my fellow women’s club soccer players and I filed and won the Title IX suit that went on the establish the intercollegiate women’s soccer program at Auburn. I minored in Spanish and spent 8 years teaching K-12 at a local elementary school, and went on to pursuit my Masters in education. During my studies I took a TESOL class and was inspired by my professor to continue my studies with a PhD in teaching & learning processes directly following my Masters.”
“Now, my job looks different every day. I work as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis & Columbia, and I am the Migrant English Language Learning (MELL) instructional specialist for 31 Missouri counties. On a given day, I could be teaching both online and in-person classes, presenting school wide professional developments, or working one on one with admins– all while leaving time to teach yoga and mindfulness for both children and adults, and (finally) some gym time for me.”
How do you find balance in all that?
“There’s a yoga path called Karmic Yoga that I try to follow, it’s the yoga of selfless service. My time is one of the most valuable things that I have to give, so I try to give as much as I can. Karmic Yoga challenges me to look at my motivation for what I do, and to try to give myself and my time in an altruistic way. That’s one of the reasons that I chose to come here to Honduras for the week. I choose to give my time to be here on the ground, to play a supporting role and to experience the type of work Chispa Proejct does day to day.
Going off of that, how to you try to live the Chispa Project mission in your daily life?
“Students have a legal right to equitable education. That means meeting students where they are, and providing them with the appropriate resources to get them where they need to be.”
“One of my ongoing projects is creating a bilingual lending library in one of the locations where I work. Bi-literacy is so important, I want my students to be successful in the majority English Speaking system that they are in, but I want just as much for my students to have materials to read in their first language.”
What are you reading right now?
“The book I’m currently reading is the Vedanta Treatise by Swami Parthasarathy. The message of Vedanta is: “What is that which, by being known, everything else becomes known.” Really the book is about living your life in a very conscious, intentional way.”
“I also try to read the books that I can then recommend to the teachers that I train. My hope is that those teachers will then put together libraries that are representative of the students that they teach. I just finished I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez.”
What was the last gift you gave?
“Appropriately enough, the last gift I gave was a book. The book is called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The funny thing about this gift was that it was my second time gifting this book to the same person! I had given him the book before, and then someone had borrowed (read: taken and never returned) the book from him before he ever got the chance to read it. I actually give this book as a gift often, it talks about four very practical agreements to make with yourself for living your life, all based on Toltec wisdom.”
Would you rather read your favorite book over again or read a new book?
“I am always on the lookout for new things to try and experience, so I would definitely say read a new book. I love looking for titles that are new to me or new in general. Lately I’ve been going back through college classics that I never got the chance to read.”
Thank you, Cynthia, for your lessons in Yoga practice and in life practice!

We are grateful that Cynthia’s path led her here to experience Honduras for the first time. If Cynthia’s story has inspired you to make your own volunteer trip to work with us, find more information here. Donate to help bring students the equitable education that they deserve here.
How do you live the Chispa Project mission in your daily life? Leave us your comments below.