To prepare them for college, Keishia Thorpe teaches English to 12th-grade students who are English language learners at the International High School Langley Park, Bladensburg, Maryland, United States, a school where over 85% are Hispanic students and 95% identify as low-income. Keishia fled poverty and violence as a child from Jamaica, and encountered racism as a black immigrant in the US where she had come on a track and field scholarship. Keeping a growth mindset and focussed on her goal, she not only graduated at the top of her class, but in her spare time volunteered as tutor at a nearby inner-city school, having seen how black students were disproportionately underrepresented and their schools under-resourced. Struck by the U.S. having a growing diverse student population of 49.8% and a teaching force of 87% Caucasian, together with the inequity she saw students experience, led her to become a teacher.
Her commitment to mentoring students - all immigrants themselves - and helping them find paths to higher education saw her named National Life Group’s ‘Lifechanger of the Year’ Grand Prize Winner for the 2018-2019 School Year, an award for teachers who inspire and go above and beyond for their students. Her 16 years of teaching have seen her dedicate herself to mentoring college applicants and student-athletes, as well as expanding access to subsidized testing, financial aid, and full scholarships.
Aside from delivering life-changing career pathways for her own students, Keishia is also a teacher mentor to new teachers, designing and sharing best practices with her team and Professional Learning Community. Over the years, she has contributed to public debates on the teaching profession at State Board of Education meetings and testifies on teacher retention and funding; also attending and participating in Congressional Black Caucus events; Shared Vision Conference-for leaders in education; the American Federation of Teachers lobby and public events; Save our School Conference advocating for minority students and social justice in education; Community Schools and Chancellor’s Community Forums representing her school; lobbies and works with teachers unions in open forums advocating for higher teacher retention rates and fair evaluation systems. She has served with the Washington Teachers Union, and as American Federation of Teachers’ Teacher Leader Ambassador, encouraging teachers to dive into action research to solve education issues in their schools and communities while improving student learning, and to propose recommendations to local and federal institutions. As leader of the Local School Advisory Team, she helps with the school’s yearly budget allocation and has joined political campaigns encouraging teachers to vote.
Her efforts have won her international praise and recognition and she additionally demonstrated that her caring goes way beyond the classroom, as co-founder of US Elite International Track and Field, Inc., a non-profit offering 'at risk' student-athletes across the globe an opportunity to use their talents as a vehicle to access scholarships to earn a college diploma debt-free. She is also founder of the Hope Beyond Distance Foundation and Food4Change, a program offering support services to immigrant students and their families.