< Back to Mesquite's website

Meet Our Staff

Mesquite’s Chinese Immersion Program features a team of professionals, brought together in collaboration with Vail. Each one of them is a dedicated and effective educator.



Kindergarten Team
Hui Lian and Billie Buntin

1st Grade Team
Junli Ma and Elba Herd

2nd Grade Team
Junli Ma and Elba Herd

3rd Grade Team
Jiangbin Liu and Faith Alva

4th Grade Team
Shao Xiao-Castillo and Helen Lai

5th Grade Team
Lufei Lin


Faith Alva

Third Grade Immersion Teacher

My name is Faith Alva, this will be my 14th year in education. I was born and raised right here in Tucson, Arizona and grew up attending school in the Vail School District. I taught first grade at Sycamore Elementary for 3 years then I left the district to run and teach at a preschool program for eight years. This will be my third year teaching 3rd grade.

I have my bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a masters degree in Educational Leadership. I’ve been married for eleven years and have three children. My step-daughter Domonique is a sophomore at Pima Community College, my daughter Alana is in 4th grade, and my son Joseph is in second grade.

I am thrilled to be working with your child this year and helping him/her to accomplish great things! You are the most important person in your child’s life, and I know if we work together your child will have a phenomenal year. I strongly believe in the partnership between parents, students, and teachers. Together we can do amazing things!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have at any time. I can be reached at alvaf@vailschooldistrict.org or at 879-2126. I’m looking forward to a great year!

Billie Buntin

Kindergarten Immersion Teacher and Instructional Team Leader

Mrs. Buntin was born in Phoenix, raised in Arizona and California, and has lived in Tucson since 2000. She earned her Master of Education – Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She has taught First and Second grade and is currently a Kindergarten English Teacher in the Mesquite Chinese Immersion Program.

Mrs. Buntin says, “I am thrilled to teach in the Mesquite Chinese Immersion Program! It has been wonderful to witness and be a part of the students’ academic growth, to see them learning math and science in Chinese, and to hear them communicating in Chinese.”

Elba Herd

1st and 2nd Grade Immersion Teacher and Instructional Team Leader

I was born in Silver City, New Mexico.  I attended New Mexico State University and received a Bachelors degree in Marketing Management.  I also attended Western New Mexico University and received a Masters degree in Elementary Education.  I have taught full day kindergarten, first, second, and third grade.  I am honored to be a part of the Chinese Immersion Program and First and Second grade teams at Mesquite.

Helen Lai

4th Grade Chinese Immersion Teacher

My name is Helen Lai. I was born in Taiwan and came to the States when I was five. I grew up in Gilbert, Arizona, and my wonderful husband and I have lived in Sierra Vista for fifteen years before moving to Vail. We have a son in seventh grade and a daughter in fourth grade.

This will be my 19th year of teaching, and within those years I have taught grades 2nd through 5th. I have taught in Riverside, Chandler and Sierra Vista. I received my bachelor's degree in elementary education, with a minor in science, from the University of Arizona. I earned my Master of Education degree, with distinction, from Northern Arizona University. I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese. I am honored and thrilled to be teaching at Mesquite Elementary! I know we will have a successful and memorable year!

Hui Lian

Kindergarten Chinese Immersion Teacher

My name is Hui Lian, I was born and raised in Shanghai, China, a beautiful, multi-culture, international city. I immigrated to America in 2008, and I graduated from Pierce College in Washington State, my major is Early Childhood Education. I have a beautiful daughter, who is in the Chinese Immersion Program at Mesquite. This is my fourth year working at Arizona schools. It will be my honor to have the chance to be an educator in Mesquite Elementary School Chinese immersion program. I find it is fulfilling to provide knowledge to young children, inspiring kids to develop their curiosity, and guide them to explore the unknown. I believe that it is more important to teach students how to think not what to think. I find the best reward for an educator is to pass the knowledge to their student, inspire them, and watch them grow. I can't wait to work with our amazing teachers, staff, students, and parents.

Lufei Lin

5th Grade Chinese Immersion Teacher

Mr. Lin was born and raised in southeast China. He has a Bachelor degree in Chinese Language Art and a Masters degree in Modern Chinese Literature from Fujian Normal University. He earned his second Master of Arts in Teaching and California Multiple Subject credential from Chapman University. Mr. Lin has teaching experiences in second grade and fourth grade Mandarin Immersion Program classes. He is also an emerging scholar in elementary mathematics education. Driven by his commitment to building a student-centered educational environment for students, Mr. Lin focuses on studying cultural and linguistic awareness within mathematics education under bilingual settings. He has presented at the Orange County Mathematics Council Symposium on culturally responsive and inclusive mathematics pedagogies. He is also a member of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Jiangbin Liu

3rd Grade Chinese Immersion Teacher

My name is Jiangbin Liu, I was born in China. I graduated from Xiamen University in China with a major in Journalism and got my master’s degree in teaching and curriculum from Michigan State University. I have teaching experience with kids from Pre-k to 3rd grade in China, Washington D.C, and Michigan. This will be my first year in Mesquite family. Before moving to Tucson, I taught in a Chinese immersion IB school for 3 years in Lansing, Michigan. I am interested in reading and traveling. I love to meet new people around the world and learn about their language and culture. I am looking forward to meeting all of you!

Junli Ma

First and Second Chinese Immersion Teacher

Junli Ma was born and raised in mainland China. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from Beijing International Studies University.  In 2018, she moved to Los Angeles to study in a two-year program at Loyola Marymount University where she earned a Master of Arts in Bilingual Education.  Ms. Ma upholds high expectations for herself and her students. She believes students have multiple intelligences which means children have the opportunity to showcase strengths in different areas. Every child has a chance to earn shining stars!

Shao Xiao-Castillo

4th Grade Chinese Immersion Teacher

My name is Shao Castillo-Xiao (肖韶). I was born and raised in mainland China. I came to the U.S. for secondary education in 2009, and have been working on my degrees and career since then. I received my B.A. in English Literature from the University of Iowa, and recently graduated from Michigan State University with my M.A in Teacher Education. I’m now working on my M.A. in Educational Leadership with Northern Arizona University. This is my 5th year teaching, and I’m looking forward to a productive school year!