A STARTALK Chinese Immersion in the Sonoran Desert

Program Director

Dr. Wenhao Diao


Dr. Wenhao Diao is an Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies and an affiliated faculty member in the interdisciplinary graduate program of Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, where she also co-directs the Center for East Asian Studies , a Title VI National Resource Center supported by the US Department of Education, at the University of Arizona. She received her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and her B.A. and M.A. from East China Normal University.  As an applied linguist, her research has primarily focused on the phenomenon of study abroad — particularly going to and from China. More recently she has examined Chinese learning during the secondary to postsecondary transition. She was awarded a Fulbright-Hays grant in 2017 for her prosposed project that connects educators in the U.S. with their peers in China. She has extensive experience teaching Chinese language and training Chinese language teachers. Prior to joining the University of Arizona, she taught at Middlebury College, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Virginia, and East China Normal University.

Program co-Director & Lead Instructor

Mrs. Grace Wenjing Xie


Mrs. Grace Wenjing Xie is the founder and President of CLTA-AZ. She has worked as a Chinese education outreach specialist at Arizona State University, developing the K-12 curriculum, training teachers, and organizing cultural events for 14 public schools and other schools within the network. Having directed several STEM summer camps for Arizona’s school districts, Mrs. Xie is also familiar with the Arizona K-12 Science Standards. She has also served as Curriculum Manager for Arizona State University’s Chinese Flagship AP Linkages Program, a federally funded initiative for K-16 articulation in Chinese instruction. In that capacity, she led the AP Chinese curriculum development for K-14 schools and supervised outreach events. Mrs. Xie is currently the Dual Language Immersion Program Coach at the Chandler Unified School District, and her outstanding work there has been featured by the Asia Society (n.d.). She also provides educational and professional development workshops for school administrators and teachers. Mrs. Xie is very familiar with STARTALK. She has attended two teacher STALKTALK Programs, one at the University of Virginia in 2010 and the other the Virtual Crossroad STARTALK in 2016. She has taught at the ASU Student STARTALK Programs in 2011 and 2013.

K-12 Pedagogical Expert

Mrs. Panna Leatherby


Mrs. Leatherby will be the on-site K-12 pedagogical expert. She has been teaching and developing the K-12 Chinese curriculum since 2008. She holds an M.A. in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) from Iowa State University and a Certificate in East Asian Language Teaching from the Ohio State University. She teaches Chinese and develops the curriculum at Higley Unified School District, where she also works closely with the Chinese dual language immersion program. She has led several summer camps in her school district. She has also taught at a STARTALK program, hosted then by Arizona State University.

K-12 curriculum consultant

Mrs. Ariana Koers


Mrs. Koers is the founder of the Chinese program in Rio Rancho Public Schools in New Mexico, where she designs curriculum and teaches Chinese. She is a Board member of SWCOLT and co-chairs its Teacher of the Year committee. She was the winner of the 2015 SWCOLT Excellence in Teaching (Secondary Schools).