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American Keshia Thorpe wins Global Teacher Prize 2021

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The American Keishia Thorpe wins the Global Teacher Prize in Paris at UNESCO's headquarters, an annual prize awarded to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

The award by the Varkey Foundation promotes education, and is presented this year by actress Isabelle Huppert. 

Chosen from among more than 8,000 candidates, this English teacher in Maryland, an immigrant of Jamaican origin, campaigns for "more inclusive" access to higher education, especially for her non-English-speaking high school students, first-generation immigrants and refugees.

Keishia Thorpe teaches at International High School at Langley Park in Prince George's County. Her application was among those from 121 countries around the world. Thorpe said she was grateful to the foundation for putting teachers in the spotlight and telling their stories.

``Education is a human right, and all children should be entitled to have access to it,'' Thorpe said during a ceremony streamed online. ``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 redesigned the 12th grade English curriculum to make it culturally relevant to her students, who are first-generation Americans, immigrants or refugees, the foundation said. She also assists students with applying for college and scholarships, helping them win $6.7 million in scholarships in the 2018-2019 school year, according to the foundation.

``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 said. ``This is why teachers will always matter. Teachers matter.''

Thorpe, who came to the United States from Jamaica on a track and field scholarship, founded the nonprofit U.S. Elite International Track and Field with her twin sister, Dr. Treisha Thorpe, to help ``at risk'' student-athletes around the world use their talents to pursue scholarships to U.S. colleges and universities, according to the foundation.

Maryland's governor awarded Thorpe the Medal of Excellence for her work in influencing equitable policies in education. She was also named National Life Changer of the Year for 2018-2019.

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