As a teacher for nearly two decades at Metter High School, answering questions is one thing Mary Ann Stanley does best.
But those questions have never been asked by celebrity-host Alex Trebek.
That fact will change Monday, when 15 teachers, Stanley among them, gather at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California for a two-day taping of the second ever “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament.
The Metter High sciences teacher was chosen from thousands of online test-takers and impressed enough in subsequent interviews and assessments to be given a chance to compete for the television quiz show’s $100,000 grand prize.
When taping begins Monday, Stanley hopes to be in top form as she lives out a life-long dream, which isn’t necessarily winning the contest.
“I am looking forward to meeting Alex Trebek,” she said. “For decades I have watched Trebek on television. It is sort of like a nerd-pilgrimage to get to go to Jeopardy and meet him. It is something I’ll be able to check off of my list.”
Stanley, a Jesup native and Georgia Southern alumna, could appear on as many as four shows, if all goes her way.
The Teachers Tournament will feature an opening quarterfinal round — pitting five groups of three contestants against one another — a semi-final round that includes the five winners and the four next-highest money-earners, and two final episodes featuring the last three contestants, according to Jeopardy! contestant producer Maggie Speak.
The shows will begin airing Feb. 15, she said.
“Right now, I am just hoping to not look like an idiot or freeze up. I want to give a credible performance,” Stanley said. “It would be nice to be in the top three, but I think all of these other teachers will be fantastic at this game. I don’t want to be overconfident.”
“I have been studying frantically since I found out I was going to be on,” she said. “But you can’t know everything and you can not remember everything. So, I am just going to do the best I can and enjoy it.”
Still, half of the battle is already won.
Stanley was one of approximately 60,000 people who took online assessments given each year on the show’s website, Speak said. Being selected based on her score, and listed profession for the Teacher’s Tournament, Stanley was called to audition and take another timed, 50-question test in front of contestant-evaluating staff in Lexington, Kentucky.
While there, she was subjected to an interview — with questions like those Trebek would ask during the show — and matched with two other applicants to participate in mock-game.
“We use the trial run to get a chance to see how (contestants) would be on the show,” said Speak. “We also do a brief interview to get to know them.”
Stanley made the trip to Lexington in July last year. She found out the week before Thanksgiving that she would need to make plans for a trip to the ‘Golden State.’
“I was very excited. I was hollering over the telephone,” she said. “I was surprised. The staff will tell you that out of all the people who qualify, only a few hundred can be used each year.”
Stanley says she had to keep the selection under-wraps for a brief time, though word began to leak in the community, and in classrooms, once she had to inform school officials and students about the upcoming trip.
Saturday, Stanley and her husband left town in route to California. Though the question material could cover virtually any subject, and is chosen at random according to Speak, Stanley says she has an idea about what she hopes to see, and what she doesn’t.
“If they pull out a category like the NFL (National Football League), I’m going to be in trouble,” she joked. “I am dreading sports frankly.”
A physical science and chemistry teacher, she hopes the material will be a little closer to her wheel-house.
“Of course, I am a science teacher,” she said. “So I would love to see any science.”
Whatever the verdict, Stanley will know the show’s results well before most and be sworn to secrecy until after the episodes air.
Guaranteeing that there is at least one question she can’t answer: “How’d you do?”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.