From Romeo to Leon Bass, making culture come alive

Deanna Grunfeld

Nate Erez, Community Editor

English teacher Ms. Nancy Sterman, known for bringing authors to speak to her classes and also for organizing larger events through Facing History And Ourselves, will now take a break from teaching and pursue a singing career.

English teacher by day and night club singer by night, Ms. Sterman taught all the freshmen and some of the seniors for four years. For her freshmen she arranged visits from Mona Golabek and Gina Nahai, both of whom had written books her students were reading, and she also developed the Senior Project, required of all 12th graders since 2010.

For Facing History, Ms. Sterman organized community-wide, standing-room-only events featuring Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, which helped desegregate schools in Arkansas during the Civil Rights movement; and Dr. Leon Bass, a member of an African-American army unit that liberated the Buchenwald death camp at the end of World War II.

“She’s one the most thoughtful and creative teachers,” said General Studies Principal Mr. Phu Tranchi. “I could really tell she thought about her work on a daily basis. Also she sings like few others.”

Each spring, Ms. Sterman had her ninth graders develop two variations of a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and perform them in The Wildfire Theatre.  One scene would be developed as a Shakespeare play, and the other in a modern setting, with modernized characters.

“It gave us a chance to take the play and make it our own,” said current sophomore Max Lipner. “It required us to dissect the actual play to fully understand it.”

Outside of teaching, Ms. Sterman was also lead singer of an indie band named Madame Trash Heap. The group, which featured former Shalhevet technology director Nik Rubenstein on keyboards, enjoyed local success and won a battle of the bands competition last year.

The band’s music proved to be popular among students and faculty who attended its concerts in clubs, some open to minors, on the Sunset Strip and elsewhere. But in April, Ms. Sterman told students that the band had broken up due to internal difficulties.

Samples of their music can be found at

“Ms. Sterman was a teacher who really cared for her students and I’m very sorry she won’t be with us next year,” said freshman Justin Nemanpour. “I will miss her immensely.”