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Ye Jianzhong: a Silver-hair teacher inspires the younger generation


In 2020, China ramped up a national initiative, known as the National Silver-Age Teacher Action Plan, to encourage retired teachers to return to the classroom as part of broader steps to narrow regional gaps in education. This initiative also strives to make better use of an aging society.

Since the launch of this initiative, 17 retired teachers from ECNU have volunteered to supplement the teaching resources in China's western region, including the Karamay campus of China University of Petroleum (Beijing), Yili Normal University, and Xichang University.

Among them, Professor Ye Jianzhong, a retired faculty member from ECNU's Computer Science and Technology Department, has made a significant impact at Yili Normal University, more than 4,000 kilometers away from his home in Shanghai.

In August 2023, Ye Jianzhong signed up for the National Silver-Age Teacher Action Plan. He informed his family about his decision to go to Xinjiang only after the decision was finalized, as his parents are both in their nineties. "They were a bit emotional when they found out because of our family situation. They asked how I could go to Xinjiang under these circumstances?"

"There is a shortage of teaching resources here, and I feel my expertise can be put to good use, so I think it's worth it." Ye said, "My wife initially had reservations, but now she increasingly supports me in doing this, saying it's meaningful."

"The students here are very sincere and eager to learn," said Ye. "Sharing my lifetime of knowledge with them fills me with great joy. Being able to contribute in this way is extremely rewarding.

Due to the collaboration between ECNU and Xinjiang Normal University, Ye has visited Xinjiang several times and is familiar with the natural environment and customs. "Because I had some understanding before, I didn't have any trouble adjusting after coming here."

"I enjoy playing with young people." Most of Ye's friends in Shanghai who ride road bikes are young people born in the 1990s and 2000s."I never use the word 'old,'" Ye emphasized. "To me, it's an unhealthy label. While my physical age is unchangeable, I strive to maintain a youthful mindset." His love for life is evident in his diverse interests, including sports, music, dance, and photography, which he regularly shares on social media platforms.

A mentor and lifelong learner, leading by example

On September 17, 2023, Ye arrived at Yili Normal University and began teaching at the School of Network Security and Information Technology. He took on the teaching of the "Digital Logic" course in two classes of the Computer Science and Technology major in 2022, with 10 class hours per week, not only delivering theoretical lectures but also conducting practical experiments.

"Ye's classes are vibrant, and he teaches in a way that resonates with us, often sharing learning methods and philosophies," his student Guo Jiacheng said. For practical classes, Ye always arrives half an hour early, prepares the key points for them, patiently explains difficult concepts, and focuses on stimulating students' initiative.

"I always feel like there's not enough time." Ye spends a lot of time preparing lessons and designing presentations. He not only carefully grades assignments and lab reports but also does the assignment himself. "I show them how an elder teacher does homework, how a scientific lab report should be written."

"We are all amazed at how meticulous he is, shaming us and inspiring us to do better." Li Honghai sits in the front row for every class. "Ye gave up his leisurely retirement life to impart knowledge to us. Sitting in the front row is an attitude, wanting to improve ourselves a little more."

In Li Honghai's eyes, Ye is very approachable and friendly. He communicates with students privately a lot, sometimes even playing badminton together.

A Timely Boost for Academic Development

"Ye's teaching and research support is a timely help for us, alleviating the teaching pressure on the school and injecting new vitality into our academic and research endeavors." Diao Xiaowei, the secretary of the Party Committee of the School of Network Security and Information Technology of Yili Normal University, said.

In addition to teaching, Ye Jianzhong also contributes to talent cultivation, academic development, and research. He participated in revising the curriculum for the Computer Science and Technology major, offering constructive suggestions for revising the teaching outline. Ye actively engages in departmental activities, frequently exchanging ideas on teaching and research with faculty members.

"Professor Ye's teaching and example have strengthened my commitment to education and clarified my career goals," said Xiang Yong, a young teacher paired with Ye Jianzhong. Xiang is grateful for Ye's mentorship. "He has imparted to me a profound understanding of the charm of education and the nurturing influence of ECNU's rich humanistic spirit."

For Ye , teaching is not just a job; it is a calling. "I'm just sharing my experience and knowledge with other young teachers," he said modestly. "I've been teaching for 37 years and have accumulated a wealth of experience that I can integrate into my teaching and research."

Looking ahead, Ye expressed his intention to continue his service in Ili if conditions permit. "We four silver-haired teachers from ECNU now at Yili Normal University are driven by a shared sentiment, mission, and responsibility," he said. "We are here to contribute to the educational development of this region and inspire the next generation of students."

Author: Wicky Xu, Tian Bolan,Huang Siyin

Copy editor:Philip Nash

Editor: Xu Xincheng