“Ms. W, I kind of like you. —Mr. S.”

A family-oriented profile on Brian Sterr, May Sterr, and Nolan Sterr, their son.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some students know him as the math teacher who posted a photo of his son on Google Classroom; others know him as the math teacher who married another math teacher, and others even know him as the teacher who owns a beer company called Sterr Bros. He is the beloved mathematics teacher Brian Sterr.

Fellow mathematics teachers Brian Sterr and May Sterr, formerly May Wong, became close while grading Regents examinations, dated for more than four years, and got married, all while teaching at Stuyvesant. Though the whole school knows how adorable their son Nolan is, there is much more to their relationship and family life than many students are aware of.

Brian Sterr recalls the first time he and May Sterr really got to spend time together. They were grading Regents exams together, which Brian Sterr sarcastically described as “very exciting.” Because no other teachers wanted to grade the exams, they were the only ones there. That gave them the opportunity to chat and become well-acquainted with each other.
“I thought Mr. [Brian] Sterr was an interesting person when he told me his stories from his study abroad in Europe, along with his Peace Corps experience in Tanzania. I definitely felt more comfortable around Mr. Sterr as time passed. I enjoyed talking to him about everything,” May Sterr said.

One particular memory that the couple shared after they began dating eventually inspired Brian Sterr’s wedding proposal. “[In the] fall of 2015, I had a video project I assigned where students had to create a short video on a math topic, and they worked in groups,” Brian Sterr said. “One of my groups made a video that featured the two of us. […] It was an animation they had drawn, and the storyline was basically Ms. Wong needs help from me, and then I help her with her math, and then we go out for Chinese food at the end. Then, I give her a fortune cookie and the fortune reads, ‘Ms. W, I kind of like you. —Mr. S.’”

Brian Sterr smiled and chuckled as he also recalled the story of his marriage proposal. “The following spring after the video, I ordered this giant fortune cookie. [...] The same phrase that they’d used in the video, I took that and had that made inside the fortune cookie,” he said. “I got one of the students who made the video to give it to her while she was teaching. [...] I probably didn’t tell her that it was me for another two months or something.”

The actual proposal relied heavily on the Stuyvesant community. “I had various students [who] she had before [...] drop things off in her classroom while she was teaching, just because I know it embarrasses her a lot,” Brian Sterr recalled. “But they were just random things; [...] they all had fortune cookies inside of them. And then they had other random things like a bottle of nail polish, where the name of the color was ‘red my fortune cookie.’”

Some objects had a card written by Brian Sterr with it. The first card invited her to dinner, the second card invited her to see a movie after dinner that same day, and the third card was a short message that said they had been dating for exactly three and a half years. After the movie (on the second night), they sat on the promenade in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Brian Sterr gave her another box with random items in it, and at the bottom was the ring box. When May Sterr took it out and realized what it was, Brian Sterr popped the question—and the rest is history.

To May Sterr, the proposal was a surprise. “I didn’t think much of [the movie and dinner] because it was our three-and-a-half-year anniversary on that day. We often had dinner in a restaurant on our anniversary,” she explained.

Brian Sterr’s relationship with May Sterr inspired many things, including his decision to take Mandarin classes at Stuyvesant. He began taking them so he could communicate with his mother-in-law, who only speaks Mandarin. “I don’t get a report card because I’m not on the register. Both the teachers [who] I’ve had have checked my homework, and I do take the tests and quizzes and all of that,” he described. He added that his wife occasionally helps him with the nightly homework, but he admitted that the homework still takes him a long time.

In fact, Brian Sterr revealed that one of his students is actually his Mandarin partner: “The student [who] I’m partnered with is in my math team class. I think he’s the only one in [the Mandarin class who] I’m currently teaching.”

Brian Sterr has many hopes and dreams for his one-year-old son Nolan, but he does not want to be a controlling parent, or, as he says, “that kind of parent.” He adds that both he and his wife are fairly laid back. “If he’s doing well with everything and has really good academics, I would probably encourage him to take the [Specialized High Schools Admissions Test],” he said. “But I don’t think we’re gonna pressure and tell him, ‘You have to go to Stuyvesant.’”

Teaching at Stuyvesant has exposed Brian Sterr to qualities and traits that he hopes to see in Nolan when he grows up. “I see students who are involved in a lot of different things. [...] I hope that my son will also have a lot of varied interests and try to pursue several of those interests at the same time. [...] He is a little bit outgoing, and I think, at this age, he seems to have a sense of humor and all that, so I hope that continues to develop,” he expressed. “And maybe I’ll understand [Nolan’s humor] a little bit more when he can talk. But every now and then I’ll do something, and then he’ll just start cracking up. And I’m like, ‘Are you laughing because I did this? Should I do it again?’ And he starts cracking up again. And I don’t know why he thinks that’s funny, but that’s fine.”