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"It's just the beginning": Maryland high school teacher wins $1 million award

Growing up poor in Jamaica, Keishia Thorpe never thought she would graduate college, let alone become a visionary high school English teacher and win a $1 million prize.

The Maryland educator and track coach, who works with immigrant and refugee students, just won the Global Teacher Prize, beating out 8,000 others from 121 countries.

"Because I am an immigrant and because I understand their story, I do not ever lower my expectations for my students," she said. "I let them rise to my expectation. And they do."

U.S. teacher Keishia Thorpe reacts after winning the Global Teacher Prize 2021 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, on November 10, 2021. Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

And through her foundation, the former Howard University track star has helped hundreds of students get college scholarships, including senior Isatu Bah. "I know she's always going to be here for me, and I will make her proud," Bah said.

Thorpe said, "Teaching just is not something that happens in the classroom — be their coaches, be their mentor, be that safe space for them."

She says she'll use her winnings to help even more students. She says the award is "just the beginning."

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