CULVER CITY, CALIF. (November 22, 2013) – John Pearson, a 40-year-old fourth grade math teacher at Barbara S. Austin Elementary School in Coppell, Texas, became the fourth JEOPARDY! Teachers Tournament champion today, winning $100,000 and a berth in the next JEOPARDY! Tournament of Champions.
“Winning the Teachers Tournament was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me,” said Pearson, who holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Duke University and a MS in materials science from Texas A&M. “I was terrified I made a math mistake in the last game and would wind up losing by a few hundred dollars, so when Alex [Trebek] officially announced I had won, things were a little blurry.”
Pearson, who had wanted to compete on JEOPARDY! for “a very, very long time,” prepared extensively for his appearance in the Teachers Tournament.
“I kept a spiral notebook full of information and lists that I thought I might need: world capitals, artists and their works, composers, important dates, et cetera,” Pearson said. “I downloaded several apps that I could use to study, like book summaries, current events, quizzes, and the JEOPARDY! app.”
His preparation paid off, and his win means that one of his students will have to make good on an interesting wager.
“One of my students tends to be very impulsive, and he imposed this challenge on himself: he said that if I won, he would wear a tutu,” Pearson said. “I’m not planning on holding him to his pledge, but he may very well go through with it.”
Pearson is new to the Coppell school district, and says that his students and colleagues were very supportive. The school even threw a surprise pep rally in his honor before he flew to Los Angeles to appear on the show.
“Each grade level presented me with something to help on my journey, and the first thing I received was a Superman backpack to hold all my gifts,” Pearson said. “I brought that backpack on the plane with me to L.A. and to all of the tapings. I am really looking forward to being able to tell all the kids at my school what a great good luck charm it was.”
Pearson categorizes himself as a saver, not a spender, and doesn’t plan on using his prize money recklessly.
“My wife and son and I have been living on one teacher’s salary since my son was born last year and my wife stopped teaching so she could stay home with him,” Pearson said. “This money gives us quite a bit of security for a while so we have no plans to blow through it any time soon. That being said, I do plan on getting the best tickets I can to this year’s Final Four in Arlington, and my wife and I will definitely go on a few dates to nicer places than we can usually afford.”
Marybeth Hammerstrom, an economics, social studies, and criminology teacher at A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska, placed second and won $50,000; third place and $25,000 went to Becky Giardina, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga.
JEOPARDY!, America’s Favorite Quiz Show® and its host, Alex Trebek, are celebrating 30 years of “answers and questions.” The top-rated quiz show in syndication, JEOPARDY! has become a pop culture phenomenon and holds the Guinness World Record for the most Emmy awards won by a TV game show (30 Emmys), as well as a 2011 Peabody Award. JEOPARDY! is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company; it is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp. For more information, please visit Jeopardy.com.
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