Elizabeth Wesner Dan Addison

While Elizabeth Wesner was filling out her application to the Curry School of Education in 2004, she felt like something was missing. When asked to indicate which language she wanted to be certified to teach, she created her own box and wrote “Chinese.”

Although the Curry School offered certification in French, Spanish, Latin and German, a lack of local opportunities for student teaching had kept Chinese off the list. Undeterred, Wesner completed her student teaching in Fairfax, Va., and in May, she became the first person to graduate from the University with a certification to teach Chinese.

“I thought there was a growing need for it,” says Wesner. “I knew more people were going to need to speak Chinese and I thought I could help with that.”

Her faculty adviser, Ruth Ferree, says that Wesner’s pioneering example has the Curry School considering the addition of a Chinese education program. “This was her driving passion and she was willing to do whatever it took to meet this goal,” says Ferree.

After teaching English in Shenzhen, China, Wesner hopes to get a job at the State Department teaching Chinese to diplomats.