By Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke School English teacher Charles Temple put the national spotlight on Ocracoke May 13 when he won the first ever “Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.” Temple, 38, who competed against 14 other teachers from across the country, won $100,000, as well as a guaranteed spot in the Tournament of Champions airing later this year.
The tournament was held over two days in March and Temple has had to keep his win under wraps as if it were a national secret, “All this went down six weeks ago and I had to come back here and keep a poker face,” he said. “Then the whole thing came back around this week.”
He has been riding a wave of excitement on the island ever since the first installment of the multi-day tournament which aired May 5 and which he won. Gaffer’s Sports Pub on Ocracoke, which features multiple television screens, hosted a viewing party each night that Temple appeared, and there were also other viewing parties at other venues on the island.
“It’s a little strange that this is happening to me,” he said in a post-tournament interview about a dream he has had since childhood. “It’s been a lot of fun and it’s been great to see the community excited about it.”
The tournament began May 2 and Temple won his quarter-final round May 5, which earned him a spot in the semi-finals. He went on to win his semi-final round on Wednesday, May 11. Then he began two days of final competition on Thursday. The highest cumulative score of the two nights of finals Thursday, May 12, and Friday, May 13, determined the winner.
Temple placed second on May 12, which had his fans fretting until the final night, May 13.
After a somewhat slow start in the first game the final 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. As Final Jeopardy approached, Temple’s score was more than $40,000 while the other two competitors had scores under $10,000 each.
“If you had asked me what kind of a board I wanted to see (Friday night), it’s the one I got,” Temple said. He and the other contestants were a bit stumped by the “Current Music” category and Temple had the only correct answer in identifying current pop artists. “I took a little heat about that,” he said, “especially missing the Radio Head question.”
Throughout the tournament, 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.
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 rather proud of the teacher from a community of about 950 people who teaches at a K-12 school of just about 150 students.
Temple has not been informed when the Tournament of Champions will be or who it would be against. Until then, he will continue to read widely to store away as much information as he can, just as he’s always done as an avid reader, puzzle aficionado and Jeopardy! fan.
And, he if were to get asked to play against Jeopardy superstars Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter?
“I’d take them on,” he said.
The Island Free Press contributed to this story.