Warhill teacher to appear on 'Jeopardy!'

Ryan McKinnon
Contact Reporterjmckinnon@vagazette.com

If Nicole Throckmorton's intellect is ever challenged by one of her students at Warhill High School, she has a pretty good trump card: She can remind them about the time she competed on "Jeopardy!"

The English teacher will appear on the show's 2016 Teacher's Tournament to compete for a $100,000 grand prize. The tournament begins airing on ABC at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2.

Throckmorton credits her appearance on the show to her uncanny memory.

"I just remember stuff, and I don't know why," she said. "Some things are tenacious and hang in. I'll even tell my students, 'I'm not sure why I know this, but here we go.'"

That memory paid off. Throckmorton wouldn't give specifics as to how she did on the show, but thanks to an interview with her and other semi-finalists that aired on a Washington, D.C. ABC affiliate, word has gotten out at Warhill that she advanced past the first round.

"It is kind of the worst kept secret now," she said.

The winners of this week's competition advanced to the semi-finals in Washington DC, which will air the week of May 9.

Throckmorton wouldn't say if she advances all the way to the final round, where she could win $100,000, but she said, "I acquitted myself, I will say that."

During the trip to Washington D.C. she enjoyed what most lifelong "Jeopardy!" fans would only dream of: A private tour of the White House with Alex Trebek.

She said her chat with Trebek confirmed her opinion of him.

"He is exactly what you think he is: bright, erudite and charming," she said.

Throckmorton has taught English for 18 years and has been trying to get on "Jeopardy!" for the last six.

She grew up watching the show and yelling out answers. She took the "Jeopardy!" online quiz four times, beginning in 2010.

She scored well enough to win an audition in Nashville in 2013 but never got the call to appear on the show. She tried again in 2015 and earned another audition in Atlanta. While waiting for the callback after that second audition, she began to question herself.

"You feel silly, but it's like, 'Yeah, I drove hundreds of miles to try out for a game show," she said.

But then her phone rang with a Culver City, Calif. phone number. It was a show representative, inviting her not just to compete, but to participate in the Teacher Tournament.

Normally, contestants have to cover their own expenses, but the Teacher Tournament was an all-expenses-paid trip to California to compete against 15 other teachers.

"I was stunned and pretty excited," she said. "Every step I got further into this I was really honored to be in this group of people."

Throckmorton flew out to California in February for the taping.

"Jeopardy!" films five episodes per day, and she said the pace of the show is much faster in real life than on television. One episode can be filmed in about 20 minutes, and then Trebek would change suits before filming the next episode.

"It is much more competitive than it feels like in your living room," she said.

But, she said the competitors bonded by swapping teaching stories.

"By the time you start shooting you've been with these folks all morning," she said. "And you are teachers, so you end up talking about your classes and your students."

Every teacher who appeared on the show received a $2,500 grant from Farmers Insurance to use on school supplies. Throckmorton said she will use her grant to buy a set of Kindle electronic readers for her creative writing class. She wants to enable her students to publish their own stories using the devices.

She can be seen in a promotion for the tournament on jeopardy.com.

In the video promotion, Throckmorton was asked how she prepared to compete on the show.

"I watch the show," she said. "That's what they tell you to do, and I follow instructions."

McKinnon can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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