A Jamaican-born teacher in Maryland has won the annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize offered by the Varkey Foundation. Keishia Thorpe received the Global Teacher Prize at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
Thorpe was competing with 8000 teachers from 121 countries across the world for the coveted prize money. Thorpe teaches 12th-grade English at the International High School at Langley Park, in the Prince George’s County public school system. The majority of her students come from immigrant and refugee families.
“This recognition is not just about me, but about all the dreamers who worked so hard and dare to dream of ending generational poverty,” Thorpe said after the announcement was made by French actress Isabelle Huppert, according to NPR.
She continued: “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.
“Education is a human right, and all children should be entitled to have access to it. 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 best they can possibly be. And this is exactly why teachers will always matter. Teachers matter. Thank you.”
Thorpe said she will use the money to assist disadvantaged students to attend college without debt and to provide other services for immigrant children and families.
She is the co-founder of U.S. Elite International Track and Field. The non-profit provides athletes from impoverished backgrounds a chance to compete internationally through scholarship programs, according to the Washington Post.
She first immigrated to the United States as a child for greener pastures. She and her twin sister were raised by their grandmother. Thorpe won a track and field scholarship to the United States and graduated from Howard University, an HBCU, in 2003 as a pre-law and English student.
She decided to become a teacher after realizing the inequality in the American educational system. She could not comprehend why some schools were flourishing while others were not making the grades.
“I didn’t understand the American system and how it works, and how some of the schools were flourishing and some schools had students who were not making the grade. And so that really had an impact on me,” she said.
Thorpe has been teaching for 15 years. The Global Teacher Prize is not the first award for her in education. In 2018-2019, she won the National Life Changer of the Year award, which is given by the National Life Group.