Teacher Mary Beth Hammerstrom wins $50K on 'Jeopardy!'

Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 22, 2013 

Alex Trebek with Mary Beth Hammerstrom during the taping of Jeopardy, in November 2013.Hammerstrom is a Dimond High School teacher.

COURTESY OF JEOPARDY!

Dimond High School teacher Mary Beth Hammerstrom took second place in the "Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament" Friday night, winning $50,000.

"I like to think of it as winning the silver medal at the nerd Olympics," Hammerstrom said Friday, just after the tournament finals episode aired on the East Coast.

The fact that she'd won a big cash prize didn't hit until after the taping was over in October, she said. Because the episodes are taped far in advance of airing, she was allowed to call only one person to tell them about her win. She called her mother. When she told her over the phone what had happened, Hammerstrom started to cry, she said.

"When it hits you, it's sort of an overwhelming experience."

She had to keep her win a secret from everyone else until Friday. Hammerstrom said she'll use her winnings to pay off her car, travel to Turkey and fix a bathroom her husky destroyed in a fit of separation anxiety.

"Which is a totally Alaskan thing to do, isn't it?" she said.

Hammerstrom, who teaches economics, criminology and Alaska studies, has been teaching at Dimond for nine years. Before that, she worked as an attorney. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota. She's participated in competitive trivia tournaments since high school.

John Pearson, a fourth-grade math teacher at Barbara S. Austin Elementary School in Coppell, Texas, won the grand prize of $100,000. He'll go on to the "Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions." Becky Giardina, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga., took third place and a $25,000 prize.

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