World Languages

In teaching languages, the World Languages faculty aims to develop those qualities that lie at the heart of all good education: an inquiring mind, a broad-minded attitude toward other cultures, and an interest in the world. To ensure a solid language education, the World Languages Department adheres closely to the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) standards and ensures the development of 21st century skills. 

The World Languages Department offers a variety of courses in French, Latin, and Spanish. Although nine blocks of language are required, the Department strongly encourages students to take a language all four years and supports students who want to take more than one world language. Moreover, the Department nominates students each year to the Virginia Department of Education-sponsored Governor’s Foreign Language Academies and offers several language immersion and exchange programs on campus and abroad. You may find details under the Global Travel and Exchange Programs page. Summer courses and programs may be used for enrichment only. New student placement includes completion of a placement test and is done by the Academic Dean and the Chair of the Language Department. 

Available Courses


9 credits

Language Placement

New students take placement tests to determine enrollment in the appropriate language course. The Chair of the Language Department and the Academic Dean make all course placements. 


Xiaofu Ding, Ph.D.

World Language Department Chair, French Teacher

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Dr. Xiaofu Ding joined the Madeira World Languages Department as a French teacher in 2014. She most recently worked at the Brearley School in New York City where she taught French and Mandarin to K-12 girls for six years. She graduated from New York University with a Ph.D. in French literature, studied at the prestigious l’École Normale Supérieure (Lyon) and acquired a diploma of advanced studies (DEA) at Paris 8. As an experienced educator with over 15 years of teaching foreign languages, literature, and western civilizations at numerous schools (which include New York University, the New School, the Brearley School), Dr. Ding believes the ultimate goal in education is to teach students how to think critically and creatively. She explained her teaching philosophy by way of a metaphoric analogy picture: she initially shows the young mind the right keys to the right doors, which would guide them to acquire the skills to find the right keys to the doors they wish to open. The ultimate achievement is that they will be able to make their own keys to unlock whatever doors they choose. In her leisure time, Dr. Ding loves outdoor activities, and is an arts, theater, and modern ballet lover. She is excited to join the Madeira community, and contribute to the enrichment of students’ lives.

Paul Bednarowski, Ph.D.

Latin Teacher

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Dr. Bednarowski joined the World Languages department in 2016. He teaches all levels of Latin. He earned a B.A. from The University of Chicago and an M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin. He has taught at the college and high school levels, most recently at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore. 

Ethan Abensohn

World Languages teacher

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Mr. Abensohn began teaching at Madeira in the fall of 2021 as a French and Spanish instructor. He earned a B.A. in French Studies from Colby College in 2007, an M.A. in French Literature from Middlebury College in 2008, and an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University in 2017. He has spent five years living in Francophone countries in Europe (France), West Africa (Cameroun), and North Africa (Morocco). He has over seven years of teaching experience, including positions teaching French and Arabic. Mr. Abensohn is delighted to be joining the Madeira community and looks forward to teaching inductive, student-centered classes, with a premium placed on communicative methods. 

Jill Kite, Ph.D.

Spanish teacher

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Originally from Charlotte, NC, Dr. Kite began teaching Spanish at Madeira in 2021. She earned bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in Women’s Studies from Florida Atlantic University, and a master’s and doctorate in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Kite also holds a PhD certificate in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.

Courtney Zsitek

Spanish Teacher

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Ms. Zsitek began teaching Spanish at Boston College in 2016 where she earned a Master's degree in Hispanic Language & Literature. She continued on to teach Spanish and American Sign Language at the secondary level for an independent school in Orlando, FL prior to relocating to Virginia to begin her teaching career at Madeira.