Redefining Retirement – Nydia Castillo – Positivity in Retirement

Redefining Retirement
Nydia Castillo - Cocina Castillo

Nydia Castillo’s career with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spanned three decades, beginning in 1986 when she was among a group of teachers recruited from Puerto Rico. At CPS Nydia was not only a teacher, but a school administrator, counselor, and Manager of the Citywide Bilingual Education Department in the Office of Language and Cultural Education.  

Throughout her career, Nydia had a plan for retirement. “I believe every person who’s looking toward retirement has a plan. Mine was very solid. Do more theater and travel as much as possible.” she said.  

Nydia started acting in the theater at the age of 13, and throughout her twenties, she balanced professional acting with her studies in education and counseling. Nydia’s love for the theater and acting significantly influenced her teaching approach, leading her to bring theatrical techniques into the classroom. Her belief in the power of theater even inspired her master's thesis, “Theater as an Instrument for Guidance and Counseling for Children.” 

Since retirement, Nydia’s passion for acting has only grown. “It’s been very fruitful,” she said. “The freedom I enjoy offers me the opportunity to accept new challenges and travel to work in other states and countries.” 

Nydia’s retirement involves more than just acting. During the pandemic, she found joy in cooking and launched her YouTube cooking channel, Cocina Castillo. Nydia describes cooking as “therapy” and through her platform, she shares her love for food, using it to connect and inspire others.  

When what advice she has for fellow retirees, Nydia emphasizes the importance of embracing change with grace and gratitude. “If there is one thing I have learned, it is the power of positivity and when you decide to shift your mindset, anything is possible,” 

Nydia’s journey illustrates how embracing passions, exploring new endeavors, and maintaining a positive outlook can create a fulfilling retirement and uplift others along the way.  

Nydia’s Favorite Recipe: Guava Pastries 

Nydia says these pastries take her back to her childhood. View the recipe and follow along with the video from the Cocina Castillo channel below.

Remote video URL


  • 1 pack of frozen puff pastry 
  • 1 guava paste (Goya is Nydia’s favorite) 
  • Confectioners’ sugar 


  1. Using a rolling pin to slightly stretch the cold, but not frozen puff pastry sheets. 
  2. Cut 9 squares on each sheet. 
  3. Place a piece of guava in half of the squares.   
  4. Cover with the other pieces of dough. Gently stick the edges together.  
  5. Bake on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 min until golden brown. 
  6. Let them cool and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.   
  7. Enjoy!