One of the first tasks for the faculty when they returned to campus was to answer the question “Why I Teach.” In a workshop led by art teacher Nina Silitch P’19 ’21, teachers were asked to consider what excites them and why they return to Cardigan each year, ready to face the joys and challenges of working with middle school boys. The results were beautiful, thoughtful, and personal. Perhaps most impressive were the pieces made by the new faculty. While not all are new to teaching, they are all new to Cardigan and had equally thoughtful, creative, and personal reasons for dedicating their lives to teaching. Here’s an introduction not just to their personal stories but their reasons for teaching.
Jamie Welsh has been on campus since July at which point he took over as dean of academics. Jamie comes to Cardigan from the Northwood School, where he was the social science chair, a dormitory head, a history teacher, and an alpine ski coach. Mr. Welsh graduated cum laude with a B.A. in history from St. Lawrence University and also has an M.S.Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania GSE School Leadership Program. Mr. Welsh first visited Cardigan when he was working on his graduate degree and needed to observe a school’s programs and daily activities.
“I was drawn to how crisp things were at Cardigan,” says Mr. Welsh. “There’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words but it's what creates community and direction—for the boys, for the teachers, for everyone. I’m excited to be a part of this community this year.”
Annie Johnson is also excited about joining the Cardigan community. In her answer to the question “Why I Teach,” she wrote, “I teach because I want to be a part of a community that pushes all members to be their best selves. This means my job is to challenge students as they learn new skills and help them to be comfortable with discomfort and failure. A warm supportive community is always the best place to become the best you.”
“I teach because I want to be a part of a community that pushes all members to be their best selves.”
Ms. Johnson comes to Cardigan from the Brookwood School, where she was the head of the upper school, taught middle school science, and was a sixth-grade advisor. She has a B.A. in environmental science from Harvard University and a M.Ed. in science from Lesley University. With a passion for tiny houses and countless outdoor activities, she will be a welcome addition to the Cardigan community. Ms. Johnson will be teaching eighth-grade science and coaching mountain biking and lacrosse.
In the history department, Chris Kelleher will be teaching the ninth grade. Mr. Kelleher most recently was a faculty member at Salem High School, where he taught courses in global studies, psychology, sociology, economics, cultural diversity, American studies, and Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Mr. Kelleher has a B.A. in political science from the University of New Hampshire and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from Rivier University; he was also a fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and one of 40 teachers picked to participate in the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Conference at the same institute.
“I teach so that students learn respect and discipline,” writes Mr. Kelleher. “I want my students to participate in class to learn, not only about my subject matter, but also about themselves and their abilities.” In addition to teaching history, Mr. Kelleher will be coaching JV football and JV basketball.
Max Davis is excited to join the PEAKS team as a coach. Most recently Mr. Davis was a teaching fellow at Hebron Academy, where he coached students with learning needs and taught American literature and post-graduate English classes. He also coached soccer, hockey, and baseball.
“I teach because I am committed to helping students realize a purpose through positive participation and fostered independence,” says Mr. Davis, who is a graduate of Hobart William Smith Colleges and has a B.A. in American studies.
“I hope to be a positive role model at a critical point in the athletic and academic development of these young men."
Cardigan is fortunate to have two interns this year, and one has deep roots at Cardigan. Cam McCusker is the son of former Head of School Dave McCusker ’80, was an occasional member of the grounds crew during the summer, and is a graduate of the class of 2010. After Cardigan, Mr. McCusker headed to St. Paul’s School—graduating cum laude—and then to Wesleyan University, where he majored in government and played on the men’s hockey team. Mr. McCusker’s personal interests are “sports, writing, music, film, productivity, improvement, Boston, and a good sandwich.”
When reflecting on why he wants to teach, he wrote, “I still remember how good it feels for an adult to take a genuine interest in my progress and well-being as a young man, even during times when it seemed that I might not care. The most important things I have learned have come from the guidance of passionate and caring adults.” Mr. McCusker will be a teaching apprentice and intern in sixth grade and will be coaching mountain biking, varsity hockey, and varsity lacrosse.
Cardigan’s second intern is Lindsey Houseman, who graduated in May from St. Lawrence University with a major in psychology and a double minor in exercise and sports science and educational studies. Ms. Houseman played on the university’s varsity field hockey team and volunteered in the school’s library and with St. Lawrence University Reading Buddies. During her summers Ms. Houseman has worked at Wavus Camp for Girls and the Wolfboro Camp School.
Ms. Houseman is excited to join the Cardigan community and says, “I teach because every student has a different story. My goal is to encourage students to find their voice and learn how to have the confidence to use it to share their own story and make the world a better place.” She will be a teaching apprentice and intern for sixth grade and will be coaching mountain biking and other sports in the winter and spring.
“I teach because I am committed to helping students realize a purpose through positive participation and fostered independence.”
Cardigan is also fortunate to welcome back a second alumnus, Brady Leisenring ’98. After graduating from Cardigan in 1998, Coach Leisenring played in the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNDP) and served as captain of the U.S. Junior National Team in 2001. At the University of Vermont, he captained the Catamounts for three seasons and earned both All-East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) and ECAC All-Academic Team selections.
Coach Leisenring played professional hockey for a total of nine years in both the American Hockey League (AHL) and teams in Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. He most recently worked alongside his Cardigan roommate Tim Graham ’98 at The St. James, a sports, wellness, and entertainment center, where he served as director of hockey coaching. He has also coached professional hockey with the Atlanta Gladiators of the East Coast Hockey League.
In addition to being the head hockey coach, Mr. Leisenring will be a teacher in the Leadership and GCI program and will also coach thirds tennis. He believes that “teaching is a gift that we must share with society and it is our duty to do so.”
Also hoping to be a positive role model for the young Cardigan boys is Ishmael Kalilou, who graduated from Brandeis University in 2015 with a major in health science and a minor in economics. Mr. Kalilou was also on the university’s men’s varsity basketball team. Most recently, Mr. Kalilou has been working in healthcare marketing and in the sports software industry. In addition to coaching Cardigan's varsity basketball team, Mr. Kalilou will be coaching JV football and leading sixth and seventh graders through the Charles C. Gates Invention and Innovation Competition. “I hope to be a positive role model at a critical point in the athletic and academic development of these young men,” he says.
As the school year begins, it is thrilling to welcome a new crew of energetic and capable teachers to The Point. We look forward to getting to know them and seeing what contributions they will bring to the community.