On Nov. 10, Maryland-based public school teacher Keishia Thorpe received the million-dollar 2021 Global Teacher Prize in Paris, France in honor of the dedication she has to her students, most of whom are first-generation Americans, immigrants and or refugees.
Thrope teaches 12-grade English at International High School at Langley Park within the Prince George’s County public school system. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) selected her as the recipient of this year’s Global Teacher Prize out of a pool of 8,000 nominations and applications from over 121 countries.
“Education is a human right and all children should be entitled to have access to it,” Thorpe said during the award ceremony. “This recognition is not just about me, but about all the dreamers who worked so hard and dare to dream of ending generational poverty.”
“This is to encourage every little Black boy and girl that looks like me, and every child in the world that feels marginalized and has a story like mine and felt they never mattered,” the prize winner added. As explained, her win was also one for “every teacher across the globe who shows up every day in the classroom” and transforms their students’ lives.
“Every child needs a champion, an adult, who will never ever give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the very, very best they can possibly be. This is exactly why teachers will always matter,” Thorpe emphasized.
Thorpe’s dedication to her students stems largely from the educator’s self-experience. Growing up in Jamaica, under the guidance of her grandmother, it wasn’t until both she and her identical twin sister both received college track-and-field scholarships that the two migrated to the U.S.
In 2003, Thrope graduated from Howard University as a pre-law and English student, according to The Washington Post. She started teaching over 15 years ago and has since additionally started a non-profit organization with her sister called the U.S. Elite International Track and Field, Inc. in 2005. The charity gives athletes from impoverished backgrounds the opportunity to compete internationally through a scholarship program and help student-athletes go to college debt-free.
The Varkey Foundation, the organization that awards the Global Teacher Prize annually in partnership with UNESCO, reports that 100 percent of Thrope’s students are “English language learners” and 95 percent “identify as low-income.”
At International High School, Thrope “completely redesigned the 12th-grade curriculum for the English department to make it culturally relevant to her students.” Moreover, the Varkey Foundation shared that the educator spends a large amount of her time helping her students apply to college and gain scholarships. So much so, that in the 2018-2019 school year, it’s reported her pupils secured over $6.7 million in scholarships to 11 different colleges, “with almost 100 percent of them going tuition-free.”
In light of winning the one million dollar prize, The Washington Post shared that Thorpe said she would use funds “to help disadvantaged students attend college without debt and to provide other services for immigrant children and families.”
The educator has previously been awarded the Medal of Excellence by Maryland’s Governor and been named the country’s National Life Changer of the Year for the 2018-2019 season.
Since the Global Teacher Prize is often called the “Nobel Prize” of teaching, we sincerely congratulate Thorpe and wish her and her students the best in all their future endeavors.