Why won’t Maass let students use phones in class?


Photo by Anna Keneally

French and Spanish teacher Cristina Maass uses her love for learning to help her become the best teacher that she can be.

Cristina Maass, a French teacher, Spanish teacher and FHS (French Honors Society) club sponsor, begins her day with her French Cinema class, then later in the morning, her Spanish 3 class and in the afternoon her AP French. In all her classes, she uses minimal technology and does not let students take out their phones. 

For Maass, not having a screen up all the time is important to her so that the students can talk to each other and focus on the teacher. She also does not let students use their phones in class. She wants to be able to entertain as much as social media: by being animated and by providing an enormous amount of social interaction. “I have this very strong feeling that I have to compete against all the social media, all the stuff that is really fun and entertaining,” Maass said. 

Maass was originally supposed to be a translator and interpreter. She became a teacher when she moved from Geneva, where her skills in translation would have been used, to Ohio, in a small city, with not much need for a translator. News spread around the town that she spoke French. The school administrator of a high school in Shaker Heights came and asked her if she would like to teach there. “I fell in love with the kids and the atmosphere,” Maass said. 

She taught at Shaker Heights, then moved to Maryland 21 years ago and started teaching part-time at Rochambeau, the French international school. She decided not to stay at Rochambeau because if she were to work there full time, she would have to pay for the tuition of three out of her four children, so the administration decided that she would be “too expensive” to hire full time. “When I realized that they were never going to give me a full time job because of the fact that I had these three children…I said ‘MCPS, here  I come’,” Maass said. 

Maass got her next job at Francis Scott Key Middle School in Silver Spring. She went to the interview and they called her back right after to hire her. There, she taught French, Spanish and even a class in English (communications). Maass said it was practical for them “to have someone certified in French and Spanish.” 

Then she transitioned here, where she is now teaching French 5, 6 and 7, AP French and Spanish 3. Students of Maass find her teaching style thorough and say that she is very vocal. Senior Sere Doumbouya, a student of Maass for three years, said she “makes sure you learn what you are supposed to learn.”

Maass decided to do national board certification because she loves to be a student. She was in school to get a masters in translation in interpretation and French literature.  She also feels that there should be a teaching national standard, and that without one, there can be teachers who are not up to standard. She said, “There is always a need for self-reflection and to improve yourself.”