Jamaican-Born Keishia Thorpe a Finalist for Million-Dollar Global Teacher Prize

Educator Keisha Thorpe who was born in Jamaica has been chosen among the 50 finalists for the annual US$1 million Global Teacher Prize offered by the Varkey Foundation. The Foundation was founded in 2014 to improve educational standards and enhance the capacity of teachers worldwide, and the Global Teacher Prize, which has been called “the Nobel Prize for teaching, is presented to highlight the importance of educators who deserve to be recognized and honored. The 50 finalists were selected from a total of 800 applications and nominations from 121 countries around the world. The winner of the prize will be announced in December 2021.

Thorpe left Jamaica for the United States with her twin sister Tresha at a young age to escape an environment of poverty and violence. As a Black immigrant to the US on a track and field scholarship, she experienced racism and discrimination.

Thorpe teaches 12th-grade English language learners at the International High School Langley Park in Bladensburg, Maryland. More than 85 percent of the students at the school are Hispanic, and 95 percent identify as low-income. She serves as a great advocate for her immigrant students because she can personally relate to their experiences.

Her advocacy was recognized in July 2021 by Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, who presented her with the Maryland Medal of Excellence. She was also an advocate for the Governor in efforts to provide educational funding for low-income students so they could take Advanced Placement courses and become competitive with White students in access to scholarships and collect applications.

Thorpe, who has been an educator for 16 years, is committed to mentoring immigrant students and helping them find ways to obtain a higher education. She was named “Lifechanger of the Year” Grand Prize Winner by the National Life Group for the 2018-2019 school year. The award recognizes teachers who inspire their students and “go above and beyond” for them. Thorpe has dedicated herself to serve as a mentor for college applicants and student-athletes, along with working to expand access to subsidized testing, financial aid, and full scholarships.

Among her many achievements as an educator, Keishia Thorpe is a co-founder of US Elite International Track and Field Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides “at risk” student-athletes around the world with opportunities to use their skills and talents as the means to access scholarships that allow them to earn a college diploma without incurring any debt. She also founded the Hope Beyond Distance Foundation and Food4Change, a program that provides support for immigrant students and their families.

Upon being selected as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Thorpe said it was an honor to be chosen, but noted that “going above and beyond” for her students is not something new for her as a teacher. She strives to be the teacher she wants her daughter to have, and so, she said, she treats her students with “love, sometimes tough love, and a high level of care and value.”

She added that it is humbling to be recognized for the work she does worldwide with students and student-athletes, both in classrooms and via her nonprofit.

Photo – Keisha Thorpe