The teaching assistant system is a characteristic of the UM-SJTU Joint Institute. The teaching assistants play an important role in the teaching process. Every year, the JI Teaching and Learning Center awarded outstanding teaching assistants of the year with certificates and prizes. The 2014 Outstanding Teaching Assistant winners are JI students Yanrong Li, Xianglong Wang, Jiesheng Zhang, and Ming Zhong.
The process of selecting the outstanding TAs is stringent, including nomination by faculty or students, TAs’ statements, reference letters, and the judges’ evaluations on the following criteria:
(1) initiatives in helping students learn and develop;
(2) following teachers’ instructions;
(3) reliability and professionalism;
(4) helping students beyond requirements;
(5) students’ reviews of the TAs.
The four winners performed very well on all aspects.
The following are the interviews with the four outstanding TAs:
Yanrong Li 2013 summer TA for VP140; 2013 fall TA for both VP240 and VE334 
On the role of a TA, Li commented that being chosen as a TA is an honor. “It not only proves your strong academic ability but also your courage and resolution. If you get this position, you should be proud of yourself. Apart from helping the instructors and students, you also help yourself master the knowledge. This is because teaching demands more than learning. If you want to teach well, you need to build a clear system to effectively deliver all useful information about the course, more than just knowing how to solve problems. “
Li was most impressed by the enthusiasm his students showed when they took his recitation. He can never forget his experience one day last September. “It was very hot and the air conditioner didn’t function, so I did not expect much attendance. However, I was really surprised to see more than 100 students waiting when I arrived at the classroom. To hear me clearly, the students turned off the fans and tolerated the heat. Their passion really touched me and encouraged me to do a better job. “
Li added, “I value my friendship with my instructors and students the most. As a TA, I made good friends with many students. My two instructors were really supportive and gave me many suggestions about my future career. If I had not applied to be a TA, I would have never been able to build such a social network.”
Li was twice the TA for Dr. Mateusz Krzyzosiak, who endorsed Li’s nomination whole heartedly because “his responsible work attitude, solid knowledge in the subject, creativity, and willingness to help others, are all attributes an outstanding teaching assistant should have.” Prof. George Barbastathis, visiting professor from MIT, remarked, “Throughout fourteen years at MIT I have had several excellent TAs but  they are invariably graduate students and, even so, Yanrong surpassed them by far in both dedication and effectiveness. Besides, he was participating in the SJTU innovation and practice project and maintaining perfect performance in his own classwork. Without doubt, Yanrong is the best TA I’ve ever had.”
Ming Zhong,2013 fall TA for VC210, repeated lecturer at the TA Conferences
On the role of a TA, Zhong Ming thinks “TAs need to try our best to help students learn better from their perspectives and assist the instructors to teach by promoting the communication between the instructors and the students. Learning from the instructors’ dedication to the courses, I strongly feel that I should also be responsible for my job and do my best. ”

Xianglong Wang, 2013 summer TA for VF 101 and VG100,repeated lecturer at the TA Conferences
On the role of a TA, Xianglong Wang commented, “I think TA is the connection between the instructors and the students. TAs should deliver the instructors’ messages to the students and pass the students’ feedbacks to the teachers. The students would be more comfortable communicating with us, as students ourselves, and we can help the instructors adjust to the students’ needs. It is crucial for my work as a TA to remember I am equal with the students and I sometimes learn from them. Taking initiatives is the key to serving the students and assisting the instructors.”
Dr. Becky Hsu, VG100 instructor, remarked, “Wang Xianglong is perhaps the best TA I have come across in my years of teaching, both at JI and elsewhere. He is remarkably knowledgeable, prepared and confident about the subject matter. Without Wang Xianglong, this course would
have been very difficult to execute. I am completely indebted to him” Prof. Frank Thompson, visiting UM professor and instructor of VF101, commented, “In now a half-century of teaching at some of the best universities on our planet and often then being aided by assigned teaching assistants for my courses, I can pronounce that Wang Xianglong has been among the very best I have been fortunate enough to work with.”
Jiesheng Zhang,2013 summer TA for VG100,repeated lecturer at the TA Conferences
Jiesheng Zhang considers being a TA is to practice sharing. “Since we had taken the particular course, we know exactly where students may have problems. Sharing the experience of either success or failure is sure to help students understand the course material better. Also, I consider being a TA to be my first job. I need to work professionally and tackle each task with patience and professionalism.”
What Zhang values most in being a TA is the opportunity to teach something to others. “It is my belief that we can never truly learn something until we can teach it to others clearly, for which I need to think from audience’s point of view: what they may be confused with and how to help them understand the most. By doing that, I am actually enhancing my understanding of certain topics. Sometimes students raised surprising questions from which I can also learn a lot.”
To current TAs, Zhang encourages them to do their work fairly and carefully and to be ready to help others and enjoy their work. To potential TAs, he says, “Being a TA is a unique experience that you would definitely appreciate even years after your graduation.”