Meet the Exeter Humanities Institute Leadership Team

Instructor in English Tyler CaldwellTyler Caldwell, Institute Director
Phillips Exeter Academy

Having grown up on a school campus in Middletown, Delaware, Tyler returned to boarding school life when he joined the Phillips Exeter faculty in 2011 as an English teacher. He teaches all levels of English, but he recently has focused on 9th grade English and senior electives that include Herman Melville, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Fictions of Finance. Outside of teaching English, Tyler serves as the 9th Grade Program Coordinator, he is dorm head of Main Street Hall, and he has coached crew, boys’ soccer, and girls’ lacrosse. He has a bachelor's in English from Harvard.

"Most of the scientific drawings have been taken from the stranded fish; and these are about as correct as a drawing of a wrecked ship…any way you look at it, you must needs conclude that the great Leviathan is that one creature in the world which must remain unpainted to the last”(Chapter 55). Throughout Moby Dick, Ishmael questions the ability of the artist to portray the whale through illustration; he refers to his own novel as a “draught of a draught” (Chapter 32). So, too, might we consider this lesson in light of a Harkness discussion. No template exists; attempts to apply a rigid formula might leave the group “wrecked.” Rather, it is more effective to approach each day, each group of students with a fresh perspective. Just as Ishmael separates the whale into smaller, digestible bits such as the head, the spout, or the tail, the teacher might frame the readings and, at times, the discussion. Ultimately, though, it is vital to allow the students time and space to be intellectually curious and experimental in order to engage in the process of learning. Melville allows Ishmael to revise his initial interpretations of Queequeg and of the world; what Ishmael originally sees as a coffin becomes the life buoy that saves him during the sinking of the Pequod. There might be times when the students flounder; those discussions might feel akin to the moment Tashtego falls into the sinking whale’s head. As helpless as those moments might feel at the time, I work to equip my students with the tools, the energy, the mindset of Queequeg, who dives into the water to rescue his comrade. Those difficult moments can be the most enlightening, rewarding. No single artist might be able to capture the leviathan in all of its glory, but perhaps a group of artists or intelligent young minds can."

Alexa D. Caldwell
Phillips Exeter Academy

Alexa Caldwell grew up on a boarding school campus in Delaware, where her parents taught, and it was there that she discovered her passion for history. At Brown University she earned a dual degree, concentrating in history and political science with a focus on international relations. While at Brown she played lacrosse for four years, captaining the team her senior year. She was named to the All-Ivy team, Academic All-Ivy team and 2011 IWLCA National Academic Honor Roll.

After graduating, Ms. Caldwell taught history at the Asheville School in North Carolina, worked in the admissions office, and coached boys varsity soccer and girls varsity lacrosse. There she received the 2013 Positive Coaching Alliance Double-Goal Coach Award, a national award presented to 20 youth and high school sports coaches from throughout the U.S. who strive to win while pursuing the more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports. At Exeter, Ms. Caldwell teaches U.S. History and coaches girls varsity soccer and girls varsity lacrosse. She is also a dorm faculty member Main Street Dormitory.

Instructor in English Jane CadwellJane Cadwell
Phillips Exeter Academy

Jane joined the Phillips Exeter Academy faculty in 1993, having taught previously at Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC. Over the course of her PEA career, in addition to teaching a variety of English levels and electives, Jane has been the Dean of Academic Affairs, boys squash and tennis coach, dorm head of Bancroft Hall, and is currently the coordinator of the faculty continuing professional development. She established Study Paws, a joyful gathering of Academy dogs in the Library, for students to hug and pet during exam weeks and other stressful times. Jane has a B.A. from Williams College, a master's from Smith College and a master's from Middlebury College.

"In my experience around the table, the best Harkness classes are those in which my students see the text under discussion as a very small package, a present of sorts, which holds within it a gift that when opened will become much much too large for the original box. I suggest to my students that every poem or essay or novel or play should always be “bigger” when they leave the Harkness table than it was when they arrived. In order to make the literature as big as possible, everyone is required to add something to the discussion; they must be willing to give up their urge to whittle the work down to a manageable size that is neat and tidy and finite and ready to fit back into that original box. By the end of their discussion, the literature should be more complex, perhaps more confusing; students should have more questions, more interpretations and a much wider perspective."

Instructor in History Meg FoleyMeg Foley
Phillips Exeter Academy

Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Meg earned a bachelor's and master's degree from Boston University. She joined the Phillips Exeter Academy History faculty in 1999. She teaches history, senior economics electives and yoga. Prior to Exeter, she taught at the Colorado Springs School. She has previously served as chair of the History Department. Currently, Meg is the Michael E. Ridder Professor of History. She recently held the Bates-Russell Professorship which allowed her to focus on Harkness Outreach. She continues that work as the co-director of The Center for Teaching and Learning and a particular interest of Meg's is supporting schools of all different profiles as they find ways to begin and evolve with Harkness teaching. In her free time, Meg enjoys being near the water or in the mountains. She lives on campus with her husband, two teenagers, and two golden retrievers.

"Before I ever knew about a Harkness classroom, I was a sailing instructor. I spent several summers working for a program in which teenagers with no sailing experience came to the Caribbean and learned to sail and manage a fifty foot sailboat. The students rotated their positions daily, running meals, doing the navigation, trimming sailing, and of course, taking the helm. When I think back to, for example, the students docking the boat, I now make a connection to the Harkness classroom. One student at the helm, seemingly at the controls, but she needs to hear from the boy fifty feet up, on the bow, about how far she is from the pier. And if the crew’s communication is ineffective — too much talk or not enough — we have to back out, debrief, and try again. So, sailing is like Harkness, we do care about the safe docking — the end result, but that only happens when we follow the process where everyone’s capabilities and responsibilities are honored."

Chair of the Department of History Bill JordanBill Jordan
Phillips Exeter Academy

Bill earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and a master's and Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. He joined the Phillips Exeter Academy History Department in 1997.  He teaches courses in American and ancient history, politics and the law, and coaches boys’ cross country. Bill won the 2020 Horace Kidger Award from the New England History Teachers Association, and currently serves as the Director of Exeter’s Washington Intern Program.

"On July 4, 1776, Congress established a government upon the principle that “all men are created equal.” That event got some members of the Phillips family of Andover and Exeter thinking about setting up a school or two. I like to think they were not looking to educate an aristocratic elite to rule the new country, but that they agreed with the author of the Declaration of Independence, who also wrote about the importance of “educating the common people” as a bulwark against the rise of “kings, priests & nobles” in the new democracy.  I could be wrong, of course; the academies that Samuel and John Phillips established have gained a reputation for elitism.  But what could be more democratic and more egalitarian than the “Harkness method” introduced at Phillips Exeter Academy during the depths of the Great Depression?  Instead of a teacher standing in front of his students imparting wisdom, the teacher sits alongside the students on the same plane, with a goal of speaking as little as possible while the students hold forth. While I’m teaching at Exeter I can imagine I’m preparing students not to be members of the nation’s elite but to be democratic citizens who can ask their own questions, speak in a group, stand up to authority, and question their own assumptions."

Courtney D. Marshall
Phillips Exeter Academy

Courtney Marshall was an assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire, where she taught English and women’s studies for the past six years. Committed to opening dialogues about race, gender and social justice issues, she is an advocate for prison reform and is writing her first book, titled Apprehending Black Womanhood: Citizenship and the Carceral State.

Since 2011, she has led literacy groups at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin, in hopes of improving prison life by bringing literature to inmates. A certified personal trainer, Courtney teaches Zumba, boot camp and senior fitness classes.

Matthew Miller
Phillips Exeter Academy

Matt has taught English and coached football at Phillips Exeter Academy since 2007. He earned his BA from Yale University where he played varsity football and his MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Emerson College. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, he is the author of Tender the River, The Wounded for the Water, Club Icarus, and Cameo Diner: Poems. He teaches courses in Documentary Poetics, Moby Dick, Toni Morrison, and The Harlem Renaissance. He lives with his family in Exeter and spends his free time surfing the chilly Atlantic.

Sahar I. Ullah
Phillips Exeter Academy

Sahar joined Phillips Exeter Academy in Fall 2021. A committed educator, scholar. and artist, Sahar believes teaching and learning happens in all kinds of spaces. She has a B.A. from the University of Miami; an M.A. from the University of Chicago; and a Ph.D. Columbia University. Sahar teaches in the English and Theatre departments, advises DRAMAT, and is the recipient of PEA's new teacher award. Before coming to Exeter, Sahar lived in New York City for 11 years and taught at Columbia University, where she was recognized for her pedagogy and received multiple teaching awards including the Core Award for Teaching Excellence and the Presidential Teaching Award. She has created, written, and directed a number of plays including Bury Me Home, The Loudest Voices, Once Upon a Time, and Hijabi Monologues, which has toured internationally for over a decade. This spring, Sahar co-directed Open the Gate, a devised theatre production about identity and community written entirely by PEA students.