NEWS: Jeopardy! stars Plainfield East English teacher, Erin Portman

Erin Portman, an English teacher at Plainfield East High School, achieved a dream of many: to appear on Jeopardy!

Having attempted previously to be on this trivia-based game show, Portman has always been told she would make a good candidate for Jeopardy!

“I’m a giant nerd and enjoy trivia, so people have been telling me for ages, like ‘You should be on Jeopardy!’,” Portman said.

To get on Jeopardy!, one must take an online test, attend a zoom call if chosen, take another test, and then their name is put in a pool.

Portman had previously completed the test multiple times but was not called. Portman said, “I had, during the early days of the pandemic, applied once with the test and got enough questions right that I was in the pool to be considered that time.”

Despite not succeeding initially, Portman’s love for trivia kept her going. Portman said,  “It’s not hard to take the test, and it seemed like it would be a fun thing. You know you can apply as many times as you want. Why not?”

After advancing through the stages, Portman was chosen to be a part of the show. Portman said, “My family was really excited; basically everyone I told had one of two reactions: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting, when’s it going to be on?’ or ‘Oh, of course, that’s not surprising.’”

The process involved COVID testing and Portman missing three days of school.

Portman said, “They call you and tell you the day you’re going to be in LA. You have to be there the day before for COVID testing and figuring out where to go… They take a whole week’s worth of shows in one day.”

Reflecting on the event, Portman said, “It’s a great game. I watch it on TV because it’s fun, and it was like watching it from home, but I was standing there.”

A contestant manager described Jeopardy! as a positive trauma to Portman. “It’s really fun, but it’s something your brain cannot process all at once,” Portman said.

When the filming was over, Portman remembered the occasion by writing down the details.

“One thing I did when I got back home was write down everything I could remember… I filled out pages and pages and pages of a journal,” Portman said.

Now that Portman has competed on  Jeopardy!, she cannot compete again unless called for the Tournament of Champions, a special tournament where previous winners compete.

There was not a worst part for Portman, besides the inconvenience of missing three school days.

“It was mildly inconvenient to have to be gone for three days, but that’s not like a huge hardship. The best part I think, was probably just that the whole day was so much fun; I could relax and enjoy myself,” Portman said.

Portman secured a win on Jeopardy! on Wednesday, Jan. 18th by correctly answering an American history question and then competed again in a second round.