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A Kind Educator with Great Love

2015-12-28

 

In 1984, Tian Zhenjun left his home in rural Yanan and became a student at the Physical Education Department of Shaanxi Normal University.

What surprised him first was the variety of food available in the canteen: steamed buns and rice each day and meat and dumplings every meal. Every day was like a holiday. He was almost touched by this. But each time he had a meal, he was a little troubled, for most people were having a hard time, but college students could have such good food. "I thought it was imperative for us to study hard from dawn to night and also study on weekends. It was such a happy thing to be able to study at this university."

One day, he was giving a presentation in class, when department head Prof. Hu Jingtian happened to pass by the classroom. Hearing someone was speaking, Hu stopped, walked back, and looked through the door: "Who is teaching class?" And this look changed Tian's fate. The university was short of teachers at that time when the department just resumed to admit students after the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976), and there was no teacher to teach Anatomy of Human Movement. Prof. Hu thought of Tian Zhenjun, a junior undergraduate student, and asked him to teach Anatomy of Human Movement to a class of students. Nervous but confident, Tian walked on to the podium and became a teacher of his alma mater after graduation.

The university and the department encouraged young teachers to pursue advanced studies in high-level universities. Tian thought the best way to improve the teaching and research of human movement was to study its parent subject: basic medicine and biology. After  a careful comparison, he chose to begin his integration of sports and medicine in the Basic Medical College of Beijing Medical University (currently Peking University Health Science Center).

BMU's tradition of English instruction posed a great difficulty for Tian Zhenjun as he had only a basic understanding of college English. Luckily, he could understand most of the content as he taught himself courses such as human anatomy, human physiology and biochemistry and formed the basic knowledge and theoretical framework. But he would not be satisfied with just this. He carried a thick English-Chinese dictionary in his bag every day, recited words in the small woods on campus after breakfast, and looked up new words before class. After one month's hard work, Tian could follow the teachers in class.

Tian always said that they were lucky to have many famous experts and scholar teaching in his graduate program. He was grateful to Prof. Xia Jialiu in particular, for he was the one who led Tian into exercise cardiovascular studies. Under the guidance of Prof. Xia and with his own efforts, Tian found his own direction of research.

Tian believed a good university teacher should integrate teaching with research. At that time, he did not have enough research funding and the department did not have the equipment he needed, so he managed to get free use of equipment at the university's Department of Biology and Experiment Center, as well as Xi'an Medical University and the Fourth Military Medical University. Finally, he published his research in top sports exercise journals and biological journals such as China Sport Science, Chinese Journal of Sports Medicine and Journal of Applied Physiology in China.

He was promoted to associate professor in 1997, to full professor in 2002 and appointed doctoral advisor in 2009. He said, "When doing research, you must do it the correct way. In an academic pursuit, we must adhere to academic morality and spirit and follow academic standards and academic rules."

Currently, Tian is working on three projects supported by national natural science fund, focusing on the mechanism and methods of exercise recovery of heart diseases. "There has been an increase in cardio cerebral vascular diseases in recent years, and the patients are getting younger. It is the responsibility and mission of researchers in higher institutions to do research to tackle this problem and improve people's health." said Tian.

"As a teacher, you should be good at teaching." Tian accumulated a lot experience in his first year of teaching, when he taught several basic and specialized courses. He would get to the classroom half an hour before class, divided the blackboard into three sections, and drew graphs on the right board with different-colored chalk. Later, he began to draw graphs on large sheets of paper and accumulated several hundred sheets.

"Seeing the aspiring eyes of students, I know I want to teach all I know to them. It is a happy moment when students gather around me after class asking questions." Tian would never sit during class. He wanted to use his voice, eye contact and body language to communicate with every student."I always believe a good teacher should be able to inspire students, arouse their interest and light up their dream, so they can go into society with hope and confidence to embrace the future."

Tian's doctoral student Chen Ting said, "I remember him correcting my first paper carefully, word by word. He pointed out my careless mistakes and omissions, and this made me feel warm."

When traditional Chinese holidays such as the Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival came, Tian would bring homemade Zongzi (rice dumplings) and moon cakes and share them with students. "When celebrating his birthday, he would share his gifts with us." said one of his students Cai Mengxin.

"I believe there are multiple relationships between my students and myself. I'm strict in academic requirements, and I give many humorous examples in class. I have spent time with my students on every holiday for more than 20 years. They all whisper their secrets to me, boys or girls." said Tian.

Tian teaches undergraduate students each year and more than 50 of his master's and doctoral students have graduated. Some of them continued their study or research in institutes of Chinese Academy of Sciences and other Chinese or overseas higher institutions. He always used these five words to encourage them: diligence, honesty, perseverance, confidence and vision.

As a Shaanxi Province Master Teacher, his course Anatomy of Human Movement has been selected as a National Level Excellent Course and his teaching team for human movement has become a national level teaching team.

On Teacher's Day in 2013, Tian was awarded the title of Shaanxi Provincial Model Teacher for Moral Character. To this, he responded, "This honor is the encouragement and trust of the university and the students. I will continue to try my best to do my work as a teacher."

A teacher of more than 25 years, Tian Zhenjun has always adhered to the philosophy of life of "Pursuing truth and Being practical and realistic". In his opinion, "Teaching is a conscious work that cannot be quantified. If you love your students, you can teach well. Education without love is not real education, and that love must be from the bottom of your heart."

Text by Gao Hongru, Yang Xu and Feng Wei

Photo by Tian Tao

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