(JAMAICA GLEANER) – Jamaica-born United States educator Keishia Thorpe has won the 2021 Global Teacher Prize of US$1 million by the Varkey Foundation.
Some 8,000 teachers from 121 countries applied for the prize.
The field was reduced to 50 and then 10.
Thorpe was announced as the winner by the foundation on Wednesday.
The annual prize is given by the foundation to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of education.
The prize was first awarded in 2015.
Thorpe is a 12 grade English teacher at the International School at Langley Park in Prince George County, Maryland.
She is also the founder of a non-profit ‘Food for Change’, which seeks to provide students with meals and provide food security for students.
In a telephone interview with The Gleaner from Paris, Thorpe said that she will be using the funds to further enhance the lives of students, especially children in underserved communities and in underfunded schools.
“Education is a human right and children should be entitled to have access to it,” she said.
Thorpe said that winning the prize is not about her but is a recognition of all those who work hard and dared to dream of ending generational poverty.
“Winning this prize means a great deal because I get a platform to elevate kids who are marginalised across the globe The pandemic has shown that children worldwide are all facing the same problems and I want to use the prize money to change the trajectory of what is going on,” she said.
She said that she hopes to get an opportunity to work with teachers across the globe to share best practices on how to level the playing field for students.
Thorpe said that she will be using the prize money to further several initiatives she is already working on such as services to immigrant students and their families in the United States.
“My students’ experiences are my experience being an immigrant myself,” said Thorpe.
She said that by winning this prize, it is her hope that the voices of teachers will be elevated.
“We are on the frontlines but no one is giving us a chance to advocate for education solutions,” she told The Gleaner.
Thorpe thanked the foundation and UNESCO for giving teachers a platform through the Global Teacher Prize and to spotlight teachers and their contributions.
“Teachers matter. We have to come together along with the various other stakeholders to develop and implement policies that will enhance teachers. Teachers who are empowered can change the world,” she opined.
She also expressed thanks to family members and members of the Diaspora which she said stood behind her in her quest.
Thorpe is co-chair of the Northeast Diaspora Education Council.
Dr Karren Dunkley, Jamaica’s Global Diaspora council member for the Northeast Region, expressed her delight at Thorpe winning the prize.
“We are thrilled that Keishia Thorpe, Jamaica Diaspora Northeast Education Sector co-chair, won the 2021 Varkey Global Teacher Award. Keishia is a brilliant and passionate educator who has worked diligently to ensure access, equity, and opportunity for our students, families, and communities. Simply stated, Keishia is excellent. She is the living example that we Jamaicans are truly likkle but tallawah,” said Dunkley.