Jamaican Keisha Thorpe has bragging rights.
An immigrant, teacher and community activist, last week Thorpe stopped into Paris, France to collect the rewards deserving of the 2021 Global Educator — a dazzling trophy and a cool million in cash.
How cool is that?
Thorpe beat out 8,000 nominees and applicants from 121 countries across the globe to win the coveted prize. Regarded as the Nobel Prize by educators, it is an annual honor established by the Varkey Foundation, a philanthropic fund organized in partnership with the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Caribbean award winner traveled to the French capital to accept the award she earned for revamping her school’s curriculum to suit the needs of culturally deprived immigrants and refugee students.
In accepting the prize, she set aside braggadocio to humbly express gratitude and pride:
“I just thank God for this moment,” she said.
Thorpe teaches English at the International High School at Langley Park in Maryland where her 12th grade students benefitted from an English curriculum she tailored to make culturally relevant to their needs as students from differing backgrounds and immigration status.
The citation for the prize states that more than 85 percent of pupils at the school are Hispanic and 95 percent identify as low-income.
Reuters reported on the ceremony that Thorpe said:
“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.”
“We must ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed and no laws or policies should strip them of that,” she added.
Before migrating to the United States Thorpe ran faster than most Jamaicans. Her mettle and endurance did not go unnoticed, at an early age she earned a track and field scholarship enabling her to advance studies in the US.
She pursued higher education at Howard University. Her ambition was to become an attorney.
While studying in Washington DC, she volunteered to tutor inner-city youths, and was inspired to become a teacher after seeing the lack of opportunity facing disadvantaged students.
The athletic achiever, pre-law and English major decided then to abandon her pursuit of a legal profession and instead dedicate to becoming a teacher.
After graduation in 2003, Thorpe delved into the profession she was enamored with prospects of helping students with college and scholarship applications. She launched a foundation to secure aid to needy students. According to reports, she helped her students win a collective $6.7 million in scholarships during the 2018-2019 school year.
Thorpe subscribes to the philosophy that dictates ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’
According to her sister Dr. Treisha Thorpe, during the health crisis around the pandemic last year, her identical twin was instrumental in teaching the neediest students and their families.
Reportedly, there was a school survey for students who needed assistance during the holidays. Thorpe noticed the names of some of her students on the list and over the Thanksgiving break, she partnered with community organizations to donate more than 15 boxes of groceries, which she personally delivered to her students and their families.
She repeated the philanthropy by joining forces with another organization to donate 15 large boxes of groceries and produce to her students and their families for Christmas.
Despite the challenges of quarantine and COVID-19 restrictions she volunteered with the Michelle Obama Campaign, “When We All Vote” to ensure families in her school community were educated about the voting process.
Her efforts included setting up voter registration booths, canvasing communities, and going door to door to make sure families receive voter information and to register those who were eligible to vote.
In addition, she organized a 2020 Census community forum in collaboration with the census education team, representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau, and council members.
Thorpe’s advocacy was recognized in July 2021 when Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan, presented her with the Maryland Medal of Excellence.
Thorpe has been an educator for 16 years, however her priority is mentoring immigrant students and helping them find ways to obtain a higher education.
She was named “National Life Changer of the Year” and a Grand Prize Winner by the National Life Group for the 2018-2019 school year. Allegedly, the award recognizes teachers who inspire their students and those who go beyond their call of duty to assist in their growth.
“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.”
Thorpe said she will use the $1 million prize to help disadvantaged students to attend college.
“I became a teacher because I want to prepare students for college and to change their future.”
The accomplished educator aspires to higher heights with future goals of remaining in the same realm to a purposeful mission.
According to Dr. Treisha Thorpe who noticed a Post-it positioned on her sibling’s computer there’s a constant reminder that reads: “I want to become a principal to prepare them for the rest of their lives and to change their world.”
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