Charles Temple talks
about his big win on ‘Jeopardy!’ Teachers Tournament
Ocracoke teacher Charles Temple woke up this morning tired, happy, and
On Friday night, he won the first-ever ‘Jeopardy’ The Teachers
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
He was sworn to secrecy until the final round of the two-week
“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
of semi-finals began two days of final competition on Thursday.
The highest cumulative score of the two nights of finals determined the
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
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
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
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
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
well in rehearsals, but “tightened up” in the first segment of his
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
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
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
preparation and experiences in the game and will be published soon in
The Island Free Press.
Temple on “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament: