US teacher Keishia Thorpe wins $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2021

Keishia Thorpe, an English teacher from Bladensburg, Maryland, was selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications for the Global Teacher Prize from 121 countries around the world and has been named the winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021, in partnership with UNESCO.

Through her work in teaching in a school where 100 per cent of her students are English language learners and 95 percent identify as low-income, Keishia completely redesigned the Grade 12 curriculum for the English department to make it culturally relevant to her students who are first-generation Americans, immigrants, or refugees from mostly Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South and Central America. As a result of her interventions, her English Language Learners have shown a 40 per cent increase in their reading, which contributed to the school meeting its growth-to-target rate with a 10 per cent increase in WIDA scores for 2019-2020 and the highest in the school district for ELLs.

Keishia dedicates a huge amount of time encouraging her high school students to apply for college, assisting them with their applications and helping them gain fully funded 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 percent of them going tuition-free.

Keishia’s work also goes beyond the classroom. One of her greatest achievements was to co-found US Elite International Track and Field, Inc, a non-profit giving ‘at risk’ student-athletes across the globe an opportunity to use their talents as a vehicle to access fully funded scholarships to US colleges and universities. US Elite has built a network of US college coaches with whom student-athletes are paired, with a view to earning full scholarships. To date, she has helped over 500 students get full athletic track and field scholarships. US Elite has achieved over 90 per cent college graduation of student members, approximately 20 per cent pursued a Master’s degree, and 8 percent post-graduate degree.

Keishia also established an Annual Scholarship and Athletic Convention, where college coaches and admissions and compliance teams inform economically disadvantaged student-athletes about college admissions and interact with them one-on-one, allowing many to get recruited there and then. Keishia was honored with the Medal of Excellence from the Governor of the state of Maryland for her work in influencing equitable policies in education and named the National Life Changer of the Year in the entire USA for 2018-2019, an award given to teachers who inspire and go above and beyond for their students and “exemplifying excellence, positive influence, and leadership”.

Thorpe said it’s all about her students: “This recognition is not just about me, but about all the dreamers who worked so hard and dare to dream of ending generational poverty,” she said in Paris, where the award ceremony was held via video conference. “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.”

She plans to use the prize money to give less well-off pupils a opportunity of receiving a third level education.

“Every person deserves the right to an education and I want to be that person who champions that for them. I plan to use the money to help students worldwide access higher education,” she said.

Here’s Keishia Thorpe’s winning speech after being announced the winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2021!

Global Teacher Prize 2021 Winner, Keishia Thorpe’s Winning Speech.

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