FIRST TEACHER, THEN STUDENT

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Anne-Marie Lanz is a PhD student in French Modern Studies.

Anne-Marie Lanz’s research helps her educate and inspire students at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Howard County, Maryland.

 

Anne-Marie Lanz is a soon-to-be Ph.D. candidate in French Modern Studies at the University of Maryland. Unlike most of her peers, she has been a teacher for over twenty years. Even as a young child growing up in Lausanne, a small French-speaking village in Switzerland, Lanz always knew that the classroom was the place for her. The teaching profession “has always been on my mind,” she says. 

 

After ten years of teaching elementary school in her home country, she took a break to raise her children. In 1991, Lanz’s husband started a career at NASA, propelling the entire family to make the journey across the Atlantic. Moving from a tiny town in the Swiss mountains to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. brought a variety of culture shocks, including the difference of the educational system where her children enrolled. Lanz found herself “truly horrified” to find that American students occasionally might not do their homework. “While a teacher in Switzerland, it had only happened once, with one student, and it resulted in an immediate phone call home!” she recalls. Though she was accustomed to a stricter system, she came to enjoy the more flexible and creative environment in Howard County Public Schools, where she feels that “the kids are more respected for who they are.”

 

After a fifteen-year break to care for her family, Lanz resumed her teaching career at Oakland Mills High School in Howard County, Maryland. Now with more than twenty years of experience in the classroom—ten in Switzerland, ten in the U.S.—her teaching style has “evolved significantly.” Her expertise lets her look from the “broad perspective” of a child: “I do not consider him or her solely as a French learner but as a young person who will make his/her way in life.”  Considering each child from a future-oriented perspective prepares Lanz for problems that may surface in the classroom. Leaning on the old adage it takes a village to raise a child, Lanz strives to include family members, other teachers, and peers to ensure her students achieve success. “If I had to summarize my teaching method,” Lanz says, “I would say that I create lessons that engage both students and teachers. They need, I need, we need to be actively doing something, something interesting.”

 

While Lanz invests much in the Maryland education system, her dissertation research brings her back home to Switzerland.  “It all started with my desire to spend a summer in my hometown,” Lanz says, and while there, she found out “by chance” that Lausanne is home to the private diaries of Catherine Charrière de Sévery, an 18th-century aristocrat. Lanz spent many summers pouring over old documents in the archives, thinking, “How can we not feel our heartbeat increasing when we get to read the personal writings of someone who lived 250 years ago, and wrote, thinking that she would be the only one to read it? There is a sense of excitement to get back, uninvited indeed, into people’s life and intimacy.” 

 

Lanz went on to write her master’s thesis on Catherine Charrière de Sévery and her diaries, and is now broadening her focus to include three years of correspondence between Catherine and her teenaged son. Lanz explains why Catherine is such an interesting figure to study: “She was, as many women of her time, writing letters on a daily basis: this was a way for women to express themselves, and to better perceive who they were.” Though Catherine’s letters do not deal explicitly with education, Lanz says valuable information can be gleaned through the details of Catherine’s formation and the hopes she had for her son. “One thing I find truly interesting, both as a grad student and as a teacher,” Lanz says, “is the fact that some problems about education are absolutely the same today as they were in 1780: what is important to teach, how do we teach them, at what age are the students receptive, how can we motivate them?”

 

Answering these questions and completing the Ph.D. will certainly benefit Lanz’s students in the long run. But for now, she says, “The simple fact of being myself a student is already impacting my classroom.” Lanz constantly incorporates new things she has learned in her lesson plans, hoping to give her students “insight on how learning can become a passion.” This passion made Lanz a worthy recipient of the 2012 Maryland World Language Teacher of the Year Award. What is most important to her is educating her students as lifelong learners, in French language and beyond.

 

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Samantha Suplee ('14, Spanish Language & Literature and History)

SLLC Public Relations and Media Intern

ssuplee@umd.edu

 

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