May 14, 2011

UPDATE: UPDATE: Ocracoke’s Charles Temple talks
about his big win on ‘Jeopardy!’ Teachers Tournament


Ocracoke teacher Charles Temple woke up this morning tired, happy, and $100,000 richer.

On Friday night, he won the first-ever ‘Jeopardy’ The Teachers Tournament.

Along with that came $100,000, as well as a guaranteed spot in the Tournament of Champions airing later this year.

He was also just really, really happy that he no longer has to be mum about the outcome of the show, which was taped March 28 and 29 in Los Angeles.

He was sworn to secrecy until the final round of the two-week tournament.

“I’m happy not to have the biggest secret in Ocracoke anymore,” Temple said in a telephone interview Saturday morning.

Friends and family knew he was one of 15 teachers selected to participate in the tournament and they knew when the shows were taped, but they had to wait until last night to find out how Temple did.

Keeping the secret, he said, was the worst the first week after he returned from the taping and the past week as his fans watched him steadily progress to the final show.

The tournament started on Monday, May 2.

The first week, on Thursday, May 5, Temple won his quarter-final round, which guaranteed him a spot in the semi-finals. He went on to win his semi-final round on Wednesday, May 11.  The winner of three days of semi-finals began two days of final competition on Thursday.

The highest cumulative score of the two nights of finals determined the winner.

Temple placed second on Thursday night, which had his fans fretting until last night.

After a somewhat slow start in the first game last night, when the lead went back and forth several times among Temple and the two other contestants, he started cleaning up as the second game progressed.

“If you had asked me what kind of a board I wanted to see (last night), it’s the one I got,” Temple said.

He did well on foreign film titles and history and science categories.

Temple, 38, who has taught high school English at Ocracoke for eight years and is the son of a preacher, took some good-natured ribbing about getting shut out on some categories, such as Shakespeare and Biblical women.

Lori Kissell, a Latin teacher at Liberty High School from Fredericksburg, Va., placed second in the tournament and won $50,000.  Third place winner Larry DeMoss, an English teacher at Edgewood High School from Ellettsville, Ind., took home $25,000.

Gaffer’s Sports Pub on Ocracoke, which features multiple television screens, hosted a viewing party each night that Temple appeared. There were also other viewing parties at other venues on the island.

Temple obliged by showing up each of the four nights with his girlfriend, Chrisi Gaskill, who accompanied him to Los Angeles for the taping and was also sworn to secrecy.

Last night was Ocracoke’s prom, and the school made special arrangements for the students to watch their teacher in the final show.

The prom was at Deepwater Theater, where the event started with a  dinner at 6 p.m.  After dinner, the students were taken in the school’s activity bus to Gaffer’s, where three big tables on the main floor were reserved for them.

Ocracoke School Principal, Dr. Walter Padgett, crowned the prom king and queen during a commercial break. (Merif Zekaryas and Mitchell Ibarra won the honors.)

When the show ended, the students rode the bus back to the prom.

By all accounts, Gaffer’s was jammed last night with people of all ages and both islanders and visitors.  Some of the visitors wanted their photo taken with Temple.

When the show ended, Temple briefly took the stage to thank everyone for coming and for supporting him.

Temple said that he and Gaskill hung out at Gaffer’s for a while and made several stops at other celebrations before getting home about midnight.

This morning, he was fielding his congratulatory messages on Facebook.

Temple said he was “rattled” only once during the show -- in the beginning of his first televised appearance.  He said he played well in rehearsals, but “tightened up” in the first segment of his quarter-final round.

There are more breaks in the play than viewers see on the edited show, he explained, and if contestants get rattled a producer will offer some encouragement during a break.

He said the producer told him to stop watching the lights that signal when contestants can push the buzzer and to pay attention to the pace, instead – listening to the clue and timing the answer.

That worked well for him, he said, and he was obviously relaxed as he went through the semi-final game and the finals.

The 15 contestants and a backup were congenial, he said.  He viewed the game more as playing alongside the others and against the board, rather than competing against them.

He said that he found it interesting that five of the 15 are English teachers, and he added he was proud that all three finalists are public school teachers.

After the final show, many of the contestants and their families and companions went to dinner together.  It was fun, Temple said.

“If memory serves me,” he said, “I rode a mechanical bull at some point in the evening.”

“Winning the grand prize is surreal,” he said in a Friday media release from Sony Entertainment.  “By no means did it ever occur to me that I’d have this much money in my life, but here it is… landing in my lap!”

Temple said he wasn’t sure yet how he was going to use the money, but that he was trying to be “smart” about it and didn’t intend to blow it all at once.

“Having a lot of money is not one of my goals,” he said, adding that was obvious from his career choice – public school teacher.

Temple’s fans on Ocracoke and beyond were pretty proud of the teacher from a community of about 950 people who teaches at a K-12 school of just about 150 students.

No doubt his phone is still ringing, and the e-mails and Facebook messages are still arriving.

He has written in detail about his experiences on the game show on which he has long wanted to compete.  His “journal” details his preparation and experiences in the game and will be published soon in The Island Free Press.

Read more about Charles Temple on “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament:


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