Tasha smiling

For over a decade, Tasha Bleistein, MA ’03, PhD, lived in different parts of the world teaching students of various ages. While living abroad led her to discover how cultures relate and intertwine, envisioning the world like a beautiful tapestry, Bleistein continues to interact with new perspectives as a TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) professor at Azusa Pacific University. She feels as if the entire world is in her classroom as she gets to know students from diverse backgrounds.

Bleistein grew up in a gorgeous, quaint town near Seattle called Gig Harbor. She studied secondary education social studies at Corban University, hoping to teach middle and high school students. She had always been drawn to learning people’s stories and how societies are all interconnected to one another. When she discovered an opportunity to teach in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, her enthusiasm for exploration came to life. Along with immersing herself in a warm, hospitable culture, Bleistein fell in love with teaching.

In Honduras, Bleistein taught multiple subjects to students from 7th-11th grade at an international school. “The students came to class incredibly joyful every morning, ready to learn, and that truly made me love teaching,” Bleistein said. She recalled when each class she taught threw a surprise party for her birthday, totaling seven celebrations. The relational aspect of teaching is her favorite part of the job. Watching students grow into who they are called to be is something Bleistein cherishes. The biggest challenge she faced at the time was when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras. School was out of session for weeks, but Bleistein looks back at the hardship as an experience that drew her closer to the community around her as many people volunteered through relief services. She co-led a youth ministry, which deepened her faith in Christ while watching others come closer to God.

Because of Bleistein’s interest in teaching English, she felt God calling her to explore other parts of the world to pursue her calling. She found APU’s MA in TESOL, and learned about a cooperative program that allowed her to teach in China at the same time. “Chinese culture, much like Honduran culture, is very warm and welcoming,” Bleistein said. Although she initially had trouble adjusting to the language, often speaking Spanish out of habit, Bleistein is grateful for how much she learned about perseverance. While teaching in Ningxia, a rural, autonomous region populated by a muslim minority group, the September 11 terrorist attacks happened. “China is where I grew the most and learned how to approach teaching those who think differently than I do.”

After nine years in China, Bleistein returned to the U.S. to teach English at community colleges.

“As a TESOL teacher, you get the whole world traveling to you. I got to hear from students representing multiple countries, and they all come together through a mutual immigrant experience,” Bleistein said.

She admires the students’ open mindedness, motivation, and appreciation for their cultures. “Oftentimes I think to myself, ‘I get paid to do this?’”

In 2008, Bleistein started teaching as an adjunct professor at APU through their field-based and online programs. A full time position opened in 2011, and Bleistein got it and has loved equipping TESOL students ever since. “TESOL is not the most common degree, so when I meet graduate students in the program I love hearing about their journeys and future goals,” she said. Bleistein describes her students as intelligent, dedicated, and caring. She hopes they cultivate their passion for teaching and continue to approach others with deep respect and understanding.

Bleistein’s passion for faithful instruction through her love for knowing others, uplifting cultures, and interest in each individual’s story makes her a professor who expands students’ worldview. Each interaction, like a new addition to a tapestry, increases Bleistein’s understanding that regardless of people’s differences, we are all children of God.