Alumna Xian Lu Named Teacher of the Year for Accomplishments at D.C. International School

Xian Lu
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Xian Lu

Xian Lu connects with her middle school students at the District of Columbia International School by learning what makes them unique, fostering their confidence and teaching them her native Chinese language through the lens of social justice.

The U of A alumna's efforts were noticed on a large scale recently when she was named Teacher of the Year by the Greater Washington Association of Teachers of Foreign Language. The non-profit focuses on advocacy and professional development for World Language teachers.

Lu immediately shared the news with Freddie Bowles, a professor and program director for the Master of Arts in Teaching program in the U of A's College of Education and Health Professions.

"I couldn't have done it without the two-year study with you as my adviser (and the best one ever) at U of A!" she wrote.

Lu earned a master's degree from China's prestigious teacher's college, Beijing Normal University in 2011. Soon after, she traveled to Arkansas to teach Chinese through a joint program of the Arkansas Department of Education and HANBAN, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. After completing a two-year commitment at Hot Springs High School, she moved to Fayetteville to study second language acquisition at the U of A.

"It was the only school I applied to, because I had heard lots of positive comments about it during my time in Hot Springs," she said. "It turned out to be the best choice I ever made."

Lu graduated from the U of A Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program in May 2015, earning a second master's degree.

She said not only did she meet wonderful professors like Bowles while in Fayetteville, but she was also offered a teaching assistant position that helped expand her studies. Another life-changing experience also happened in Northwest Arkansas: she met her future husband.

"We have two kids now. Life is crazy!" she said.

Her husband graduated from the U of A's M.B.A. program in 2016. Lu said they both miss Fayetteville, but her work in D.C. is fulfilling.

"I love teaching my middle school students and I believe that they deserve high-quality education like their peers who have access to more resources," she said. "Being there for them is my way of fighting for social justice for them."

Lu, who is in her fifth year of teaching at the D.C. school, has started learning Spanish to better communicate with her students.

"My school is always the best environment to practice a world language at any time because of its diversity," she said. "Learning a foreign language is considered to be very important and a source of pride in the school community."

This story is the latest in a series called the Dean's Spotlight, featuring outstanding students in the College of Education and Health Professions. Visit COEHP's online magazine, the Colleague, to read more spotlight stories and news from the six units that make up the College. Visit the TESOL page for more information on the program.


Shannon G. Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions


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