BY JAIME DEJESUS
It’s a daily double for one Queens woman!
Bay Ridge Prep fifth-grade teacher and Rego Park resident Erin McLaughlin was chosen to compete on the hit game show “Jeopardy!” The competition was filmed a month ago, with McLaughlin’s latest episode airing this Monday night on ABC 7 as part of the show’s annual Teachers Tournament.
Though she came in second in her first game of the tournament on Feb. 2, she still advanced to the semifinals by landing one of four wildcard spots — given to the competitors who won the most money aside from the winner.
McLaughlin, who has been an avid fan of the show since she was a child, tried out for the show many times online. She even received auditions in the past.
She then got the call for the third audition. Despite jitters some may have during the audition process, McLaughlin’s experience was a positive one.
“They make it really fun,” she said. “We played a pretend game of ‘Jeopardy!’ and they gave advice on how to behave.”
Months after the audition, she was about to give up hope and take the online test again, when she was asked to fly to California to make her appearance on the game show.
“I was very surprised I got the call,” McLaughlin said. “Once you’re in the contestant pool, you are only in it for 18 months. After December, I was going to be out of the pool. That was it. I was just going to try again. But I guess the third time was the charm.”
Once her appearance was confirmed, she had six weeks to practice before she flew to the West Coast in December to compete against fellow teachers.
“I spent time studying categories that I didn’t know that much about like opera, presidents, composers,” McLaughlin said. “I took a lot of online quizzes. Other people quizzed me too. I knew a lot about pop culture and literature, so I didn’t prepare for those areas as much.”
When it was finally time to compete, she was ready to for the challenge. “I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. There was no time to be,” she said. “I’ve watched the show since I was a kid so it was so surreal being on the stage. When that famous music started to play, I finally realized that it’s really happening. It was so strange.”
McLaughlin also enjoyed meeting the show’s longtime host, Alex Trebek, whom she described as “nice and personable.” She also liked being amongst her peers.
“Meeting the other contestants was great because we all have the same jobs and we had a lot in common,” McLaughlin said.
She wasn’t the only one excited about competing in the show. Her husband and stepdaughter were in attendance, cheering her on, and her students back home were as well.
“My students are very excited for me,” McLaughlin said. “They interviewed me and also asked me lots of questions about my experience.”
Her school, Bay Ridge Prep, located in southern Brooklyn, is also thrilled for the dedicated teacher and showed it by throwing a party the day her first episode ran.
“They’ve been so great and supportive,” she said.
Although McLaughlin didn’t know what to expect, she realized that playing at home is slightly easier than the real thing. “It was harder than I thought it would be,” she admitted.
“It was lots of fun and I realized whatever the outcome was, it didn’t matter,” McLaughlin said. “I’m just sad I can’t do it again.”
To watch McLaughlin compete in the Teachers Tournament semifinals, tune in on Monday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. on ABC 7.
-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola