JEFFERSON CITY, MO (November 19, 2022)

The United States Heartland China Association (USHCA) today announced the winners of its inaugural U.S. Heartland Chinese Teacher Award, sponsored by LingoAce. With nominations from their city’s mayors and school leadership, this award recognizes the hard work of the many Chinese language teachers in the heartland region who have built cultural bridges through language learning.

As a firm believer in opening more global opportunities for students across the heartland region, USHCA Chairman and CEO, Former Governor of Missouri Bob Holden says, “World languages are best taught early, but few American schools make it part of their K-12 curriculum. For this reason, we are proud to honor the teachers who have championed and built successful Chinese language programs at their schools and districts across the heartland region.” 

“As a global edtech company dedicated to advancing Chinese language learning around the world, LingoAce is proud to sponsor this award and lend our support to these amazing teachers,” says Marshall Roslyn, CFO and Chief Strategy Officer at LingoAce. “Having studied Chinese since my university days, I know first-hand the rich opportunities afforded to those who study the language. Through education, we hope to build more understanding and unlock a world of possibilities for more students.”

The selection committee included Susan Thornton, Senior Fellow for the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, Gloria Guo, Co-founder of LingoAce, Minru Li, Professor at The Ohio State University’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, and Rosie Levine, Deputy Project Director at the United States Institute of Peace. Each nominated teacher was evaluated based on the creativity of their curriculum, their impact on students, as well as their contribution to Chinese language learning and cultural dissemination in their community. 

Five finalists were recognized during a virtual award ceremony. Three teachers won the U.S. Heartland Chinese Teacher Award and two received the People’s Choice Award. Each teacher was awarded a cash grant.

U.S. Heartland Chinese Teacher Award Winners

Xin Yang Edens, Tulsa, OK
Dr. Xin Yang Edens received recommendations from both the University of Oklahoma (OU) and Tulsa Global Alliance for this award in honor of her exemplary effort to effectively teach Mandarin Chinese to all levels of students from beginners to advanced learners by integrating traditional curriculum with technology. In addition to teaching Chinese at Holland Hall Upper School, she also teaches for OU’s summer programs for local K-8 students and chairs the Tulsa-Beihai Sister City Partnership at Tulsa Global Alliance.

Heidi Kuo, Muscatine, IA
Muscatine Mayor Brad Bark recommended Heidi Kuo for being a pivotal role model and guide for her students to understand Chinese language, history, and culture. She is beloved by her students who have previously nominated her for The Muscatine Community School District Employee Recognition Award. Every year, she organizes a field trip to Chicago’s Chinatown and actively seeks sponsorships so that the trip is not a financial burden for her students. Recently, she worked with the Muscatine Middle School to start a Chinese language class, which allows   interested students to start learning earlier. 

Yan Wang, Lexington, KY
Mayor Linda Gorton recommended Yan Wang for always exceeding expectations in the classroom and preparing her students to understand other cultures and be a positive force in our changing world. In 2007, she initiated Chinese language programs for two Fayette County Public Schools, starting with kindergarten and adding a new level as her students advanced each year. She developed the entire curriculum from scratch and later mentored other Chinese language teachers. Today, there are approximately 3,500 students enrolled in the district’s Chinese language programs across four elementary schools, four middle schools and three high schools, taught by 10 teachers. 

People’s Choice Award Winners

Cindy Casto, Maumelle, AR
Maumelle Mayor Caleb Norris recommended Cindy Casto for her exemplary effort to effectively teach Mandarin Chinese to all levels of students from beginners to advanced learners by integrating traditional curriculum with technology. Outside of school, she gifts her time and talent to teach Chinese language and culture to the community at the local public library and has also served as a Chinese interpreter to former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Beebe, and current Governor, Asa Hutchinson.

Tungfen Lee, Carmel, IN
Carmel Mayor James Brainard recommended Tungfen Lee for her exemplary effort to effectively teach Mandarin Chinese to all levels of students from beginners to advanced learners. During her tenure at Carmel High School, she has grown her program from 50 to 150 students. She currently teaches Chinese Level 1, 2, 3, and AP courses. Since 2009, well over 100 students have taken the AP Language and Culture test with an average score of 4.0.

Learn more about the U.S. Heartland Chinese Teacher Award: 


United States Heartland China Association (USHCA) is a 501(c)3 grassroot bipartisan organization committed to building bridges and promoting opportunities between the peoples of the Heartland region and China. Our mission is to foster and support a positive, productive, and mutually beneficial relationship between the people of the United States and China by creating more channels of collaboration and opportunities for economic growth in all segments of the American Heartland Region. More information is available at

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