High school teacher wins $1M Global Teacher Prize

Keishia Thorpe jumped happily and then broke into tears when the results were announced and she found out she won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.

Thorpe’s students in Bladensburg, Maryland, gathered together on wednesday to watch the virtual ceremony and cheered with joy as their teacher’s name was announced.

The high school teacher was given the award for her work mentoring and making college education accessible for students who are first-generation Americans, immigrants or refugees. 

“Education is a human right, and all children should be entitled to have access to it,” Thorpe, 42, said in a pre-recorded video message during a ceremony broadcast online from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris.

“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 be,” Thorpe stated in the video.

“This is exactly why teachers will always matter.” 

She teaches English at the International High School at Langley Park in Bladensburg and was selected from more than 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries across the globe , according to the Varkey Foundation that organizes the annual prize. 

She grew up in Jamaica, and came to the United States on a track and field scholarship.

“When I think about the students and how much their parents are sacrificing for them just to have an equitable education, it reminds me so much of my own journey,” she told NBC News’ Kate Snow from Paris.

Thorpe found out she won last week and was in the French capital Wednesday to pick up her award.

“And so that’s why I go so hard for my students — because my story is their story,” Thorpe added. 

Thorpe redesigned the entire 12th grade English curriculum to make it culturally relevant to her students.

According to the Varkey Foundation, She has been spending countless hours helping her students with college applications and financial aid, assisting them win over $6.7 million in scholarships to 11 different colleges in the 2018-2019 school year alone.

Thorpe has also co-founded the nonprofit U.S. Elite International Track and Field with her twin sister, Dr. Treisha Thorpe. It aims to help “at risk” student-athletes around the world pursue scholarships to U.S. colleges and universities, the foundation mentioned.

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