Ndeye Tall '22 believes all students need inspiration in the classroom from a real life history teacher, even if her own inspiration isn't a real one.
Cory Matthews is a popular and engaging history teacher at Abigail Adams High School in New York City. He's a bit quirky, and occasionally high-strung, but passionate about his students and their potential. There's no problem he couldn't solve in 30 minutes (including commercial time).
Played by Ben Savage, Cory Matthews plays a starring role on the television series Girl Meets World (the successful spin-off to Boy Meets World). The show premiered when Ndeye Tall '22 was in the 8th grade. She watched it every week, but didn't identify with the protagonist, the teacher's 14-year-old daughter. Instead, she watched in amazement as Mr. Matthews connected history to life lessons, and shaped the future for students in his New York City classroom. By the time Tall entered high school a year later, she had decided she would teach history in her hometown of Harlem.
"A lot of people find history to be boring, but history is like a story to me. Of course, many people don't see themselves in the American story. It's often taught through a white lens. I want to change that for my students."
Ndeye Tall '22
Tall is often the only Black student in her history courses at Siena. That's not unusual, and therefore not surprising that there is an underrepresentation of Black history teachers. Tall has always planned on returning to Harlem to teach history and to inspire students to connect with the past. But first, Tall wanted to explore her parents' past.
Tall's parents are from Senegal. Last spring, she studied abroad in her parents' native country and taught English. Her students asked her why she would want to leave America to teach in Africa, and she told them that all students are worthy of a good education. Some of the students still text Tall, and they thank her for her inspiration and empathy. In fact, that experience, and the response from her students, has sparked an interest in Teach for America. Tall will eventually make her way back to Harlem, but she would like to spend another year teaching abroad first.
"It's history. Every decision you make every day, every time you decide to turn left instead of right, you make history. And you affect someone else's. And if you refuse to learn that, I guarantee you guys will not become the best person you can be. Because history is all about missed opportunities."
"Being at Siena has really helped me advance my career goals because it made me realize just how much the world needs more Black women teachers in the history field. Black and brown students deserve to have a teacher who looks like them and connects with them in the classroom. Being at Siena and having amazing history and education professors has helped me to realize my full potential and how it will be possible to fulfill my dreams no matter what."
Ndeye Tall '22
Tall spent the past five weeks on campus as a counselor for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) summer program. Siena was able to successfully complete the in-person session, while many other colleges' HEOP programs had to go virtual. Tall's own Siena experience began in the summer of 2018, along with other members of the HEOP Class of 2022, preparing academically, socially, and emotionally for the college experience. This summer, she returned the favor.
Students take English, math, science, and writing courses during the five-week 'mini academic boot camp,' but they also acclimate to college life in other, sometimes unconventional ways. Each Friday, the program featured a wellness workshop, an important opportunity to unwind given the intensive nature of the program. A Friday in July featured a yoga workshop, facilitated by Mary Beth Finnerty, director of alumni relations. The students also spent a Friday at Root3d.
Root3d is a wellness center in Albany devoted to a person's liberation, healing, and power regardless of race, body type, gender identity, and expression. Gordon Collier, a member of Siena's adjunct faculty in the social work department, facilitated a mindfulness workshop with the students.
"After a long week of stress, you find yourself in a maze inside of your head. Yoga and meditation became your best friends because of the peace that they bring. You’re calm, you feel at ease, and for just a few minutes, your world is complete. That is what Root3d and doing yoga did for me."
Vincente Gross '25
"A calm mind leads to a strong mind which leads to a healthy mind."
Kevin Goodman '25