A little recognition can go a long way in expressing appreciation for work well done.

There are very few people more deserving of our appreciation than the teachers who help to shape our children into tomorrow’s leaders.

So, midway through this Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to share the story of one of those teachers, Keishia Thorpe, who teaches English and coaches track and field at International High School Langley Park in Bladensburg, Md.

In sharing this story, I also hope to inspire you to think about the life-changing educators we see all around us, the people who make a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.

Those are among the criteria we use to judge nominees for our annual LifeChanger of the Year educator recognition program. We just kicked off the 2019-2020 season as Teacher Appreciation Week got started. So I invite you to nominate an educator deserving of recognition today.

Earlier this week we awarded the LifeChanger of the Year Grand Prize for the 2018-19 season to Keishia. She was chosen by our independent selection committee for the hard work she does every day to inspire the immigrant students in her school to follow her own path and achieve their dreams of higher education.

In her 14 years of teaching, she has dedicated herself to mentoring college applicants and student-athletes, as well as expanding access to subsidized testing, financial aid, and full scholarships.

Raised in Jamaica by her grandmother, Keishia first discovered a love for track and field in high school, when former Olympian Vilma Charlton bought Keishia her first pair of shoes, bag, and uniform.

Her work ethic and dedication were driven by her dream of using education as a pathway out of poverty and to care for her ailing grandmother. After excelling athletically, both Keishia and her twin sister Tresha Borris earned track and field scholarships to attend university in the United States, with Keishia matriculating at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

“Since track and field gave her the hope of college when she was in high school and had no clue what was going to happen next, I think she feels obligated to pay it forward,” Tresha explained in nominating her sister for the LifeChanger of the Year award.

“Through a track scholarship, she was able to complete college and had the opportunity to help her family,” Tresha said. “Today, she wants to provide the opportunity for other student-athletes to change their lives in the same way that higher education was able to change hers – not just for the athletes she coaches, but all athletes in her school district and community.”

Keishia and her sister also founded U.S. Elite Track and Field, a non-profit that provides student-athletes an opportunity to use their talents to gain scholarships and earn a college diploma debt-free. Many of the students who enroll in the organization’s Liaison International Scholarship Program come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are first-generation high school or college students.

Each year, U.S. Elite Track and Field hosts a Scholarship and Athletic Convention, bringing together college coaches, admissions, and compliance teams to educate student-athletes on recruitment eligibility and ensure they transition to university successfully. The event culminates in a college fair, where student-athletes can interact with college coaches and admissions representatives, often being recruited on the spot.

Keishia’s story is even more inspiring when you hear from some of her students, as we did when we filmed a video at her school.

We hear stories every day about more educators like Keishia. Just this past year, the other finalists for the grand prize were a custodian in Florida, a fourth-grade teacher in Hawaii, a gifted and talented specialist in Colorado and a director of corporate & community affairs in Michigan.

So, who is your LifeChanger? We want to help you celebrate and recognize them during this Teacher Appreciation Week.