Maryland high school instructor Keishia Thorpe wins $1 million Global Teacher Prize

Thorpe is the latest recipient of the Varkey Foundation's $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Keishia Thorpe, an educator in Maryland, recently received one of her profession’s highest honors for her hard work in the classroom.

Thorpe, who teaches 12th grade English at International High School Langley Park in Bladensburg, Maryland, became the latest recipient of the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million Global Teacher Prize in November. The Varkey Foundation is a global charity working to improve education standards for underprivileged children.

But for Thorpe, her work clearly isn’t about money.

“This recognition is not just about me, but about all the dreamers who work so hard & dare to dream of ending generational poverty,” Thorpe told a virtual audience when receiving the award in November. “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 foundation named Thorpe the winner of this year’s award after receiving more than 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries. She was chosen for her work helping international students learning to speak English not only excel scholastically, but also secure college scholarships.

“She has helped her senior students in 2018-2019 alone, win over $6.7 million in scholarships to 11 different colleges with almost 100% of them going tuition-free,” Global Teacher Prize organizers said of Thorpe on their website.

Thorpe herself is an immigrant from Jamaica who years ago came to the U.S. on a track and field scholarship. In 2005, she and her twin sister, Dr. Treisha Thorpe, co-founded the U.S. Elite International Track and Field Inc., a nonprofit that helps underprivileged student-athletes in high school find college scholarships, according to the organization’s website.

Keishia Thorpe
Keishia Thorpe (Credit: Thorpe/Instagram)

“To date, she has helped over 500 students get full athletic track and field scholarships,” Global Teacher Prize organizers said of Thorpe. “U.S. Elite has achieved over 90% college graduation of student members, approximately 20% pursued a Master’s degree, and 8% post-graduate degree.”

The education awards group said Thorpe redesigned her 12th-grade English curriculum to make it more culturally relevant to her class, which is comprised almost entirely of first-generation Americans, immigrants, and refugees from continents and regions including Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean as well as South and Central America.

She’s also been credited with helping her students improve reading proficiency by 40%.

Last week, state senators in Maryland passed a resolution recognizing Thorpe’s milestone international achievement. State Sen. Malcolm Augustine sponsored the resolution, which was presented to Thorpe by State Senate President Bill Ferguson IV.

“Educator Thorpe is dedicated to the education of our children, particularly the immigrant English language learners, who she pours all that she has into every day,” Augustine said of Thorpe via Facebook on Tuesday.

Thorpe thanked her closet supporters on Facebook after receiving the award and beckoned others to follow her lead.

“I continue to rely on God to order my steps as I continue his work,” she said. “Education is in a global crisis and no one nation has the answer. But collectively we can find solutions that will hopefully lead to more inclusive and equitable quality education for all children.”

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