Anchorage teacher wins $50,000 on 'Jeopardy!'

ANCHORAGE — A high school teacher in Anchorage won $50,000 after placing second in a “Jeopardy!” game show competition for teachers.

Dimond High School teacher Mary Beth Hammerstrom told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that she’ll use her winnings to pay off her car, travel and fix a bathroom her husky destroyed.

“I like to think of it as winning the silver medal at the nerd Olympics,” Hammerstrom said.

The taping for “Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament” actually ended in October, but the finals episode aired Friday. Hammerstrom had to keep the secret in the interim and was only allowed to call one person to tell them about the win. She called her mother and proceeded to cry as she fully realized what she’d won.

“When it hits you, it’s sort of an overwhelming experience,” Hammerstrom said.

Hammerstrom has an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from the University of Minnesota and has worked as an attorney. She teaches economics, criminology and Alaska studies at Dimond, where she’s been for nine years.

Hammerstrom isn’t a stranger to competitive trivia tournaments, having competed in them since high school.

John Pearson, a fourth-grade math teacher at Barbara S. Austin Elementary School in Coppell, Texas, won the competition — and the grand prize of $100,000.

Each contestant in the tournament also gets a “Jeopardy!” computer system for their school. The program allows teachers to use the game show format with questions targeted at the grade level, or teachers can use it to write their own material to cover topics they are reviewing in class.

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