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‘Every Child Needs a Champion’: Maryland Teacher Who Goes Above and Beyond to Help Students Is Awarded Global Teaching Prize of $1M

A Maryland teacher has been awarded the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million Global Teaching Prize for the work she does to enrich the lives of students.

Keishia Thorpe teaches English to 12th-grade students at International High School at Langley Park in Prince George’s County, with her students largely coming from first-generation American, immigrant, refugee and low-income families.

Keishia Thorpe poses with UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

Thorpe was one of 8,000 applicants from 121 countries that was considered for the annual award that recognizes exceptional teachers who have “made an outstanding contribution to their profession,” according to Global Teacher Prize website.

Thorpe is a Jamaican immigrant who at a young age left the island alongside her twin sister, Treisha, to pursue enhanced academic opportunities. Track scholarships helped Thorpe and her sister each achieve a collegiate education at Howard University.

For the long-time educator, being this year’s recipient of the award is about much more than her willingness to go above and beyond for her students.

“This is to encourage every little Black boy and girl that looks like me, and every child of the world that feels marginalized, and has a story like mine, and felt they never mattered,” said Thorpe in her acceptance speech on Nov. 10.

This year, Thorpe was also awarded the Maryland Medal of Excellence by Governor Larry Hogan. Other accomplishments include being named LifeChanger of the Year by the National Life Group during for the 2018-2019 school year. 

The teacher of 17 years is credited with redesigning her school’s 12th grade English curriculum to be more culturally inclusive. She also assists students with college applications and the securing of $6.7 million in scholarships during the 2018-2019 school year. Thorpe is also the co-founder of U.S. Elite International Track & Field Inc., as well as the founder of Hope Beyond Distance Foundation and Food4Change.

“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,” said Thorpe. Thorpe added that regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds, every student is deserving of an quality education. 

“Education is a human right and all children should be entitled to have access to it, so this recognition is not just about me, but about all the dreamers who work so hard and dare to dream of ending generational poverty,” she said. “This is exactly why teachers will always matter. Teachers matter.”

Online Thorpe has been lauded as “inspiring” and deserving of the recognition and monetary prize. With the $1 million Thorpe plans to continue pouring into students by expanding her mentorship endeavors. 

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