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Photo via Lee DiGeorge on Facebook
Photo via Lee DiGeorge on Facebook
Lee DiGeorge (right) with host Alex Trebek during the filming of "Jeopardy!"

A Middle Village teacher who lives in Bayside got the chance to represent his school in front of a national TV audience on May 7 when he competed on an episode of “Jeopardy!”

Lee DiGeorge, who educates students at P.S./I.S. 87 on 80th Street, took part in the annual Teachers Tournament on the long-running game show hosted by Alex Trebek. When QNS caught up with DiGeorge a few hours before the pre-recorded episode aired, he said the day had been filled with anticipation, and there was nowhere that excitement was more visible than in his students.

They’re ridiculously ready to go, and they said if I lost then I shouldn’t come back to school tomorrow,” DiGeorge said with a laugh. “That’s going to be a problem.”

He had to keep it a secret until the episode debuted, but DiGeorge did lose. He competed throughout the episode and stayed alive until the Final Jeopardy question, and he had no choice but to wager all of the $5,200 he earned, he said.

The Final Jeopardy question stumped all three of the contestants, but even though DiGeorge lost it all he didn’t go home empty-handed. All contestants in the Teachers Tournament are awarded with a $2,500 grant for participating, and DiGeorge said he plans to put that money toward new tablet computers for the special education department at P.S./I.S. 87.

DiGeorge expressed his gratitude for getting such a unique opportunity that many people wish they could have, but it was far from his first game show experience. This marked the fifth time that DiGeorge has competed and lost on a game show.

“I love competition and matching wits against somebody and trying to win a game, even though my time on game shows is not much of the winning part,” Di George said.

Di George has also competed on “Minute to Win It” with Guy Fieri, “Let’s Ask America,” “The Million Second Quiz” with Ryan Seacrest and NPR’s “Ask Me Another.”

For his experience on “Jeopardy!” he revealed a little bit about what’s behind the curtain. The first step to qualifying for the show is taking an online, 50-question quiz, and the results are never revealed, DiGeorge said. Those who do well enough on the quiz simply get a call asking them to come in for an interview and another test to evaluate how well they might perform in the spotlight.

DiGeorge added that “Jeopardy!” invited him to be interviewed in July 2017, and then told him he had been selected to compete in January.

In the end, DiGeorge said that all of his game show appearances have been about enjoying the moment. He has spent the last 13 years at P.S./I.S. 087 teaching middle school English and technology, and he is always eager to share that sentiment with his students.

“I’m interested in letting my students know it’s all about the journey rather than the destination,” DiGeorge said. “Having these stories and memories to share with my kids, my grandkids someday and my students, that’s where students get rich from.”

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