Prospect Elementary teacher to make Jeopardy appearance

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 04:42 PM

As an art teacher, John Morgan is used to answering questions, not answering in the form of a question. 

However, that is just what he had to do when he went to Culver City, Cal. to be a contestant on Jeopardy. His episode will air on Monday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. on Charlotte's NBC affiliate, WCNC. 

"I've always wanted be on, since I was a little kid," Morgan said. 

He started auditioning once they put the audition test online. He has been trying to be on the show for six or seven years. This year was the first time he made it to the in-person audition phase. 

Thousands of people take the online Jeopardy test every year. However, only 400 contestants appear on the show. Contestants who receive a certain qualifying score on the online test are selected at random for an in-person regional audition. At the audition, potential candidates take another test and participate in a mock game. Candidates who do well are put in an "active file" where they stay for 18 months. If they are not called in that time, they can try again.

Morgan attended his in-person audition in New Orleans in August of 2012. 

He received the e-mail inviting him to the audition while riding in a car with a friend. 

"I sort of glanced by it, then it sort of looked a little different," Morgan said. "I freaked out. I had a fit."

Once he read the contents, "I had myself a little conniption fit," he said. "It was wonderful."

He was faced with the challenge of preparing for a test that could be about anything.

What did he do to prepare?

"Nothing. If I'm perfectly honest," Morgan said. "It's not really the kind of thing you can 'study' for and life in and of itself is the study."

He read a lot and picked things up here and there, but he did not do anything specific to prepare.

"I felt really good about what I did in New Orleans," Morgan said. "I'm really optimistic about things, until I'm not."

He began to switch into "doom and gloom" mode thinking back on his audition. 

Morgan received a call a few weeks later at the end of a school day. He did not recognize the area code, but saw that it was from Culver City.

"My eyes started watering and I carefully touched the phone," Morgan said. 

It was a producer inviting him to appear on the show.

Once again, he was faced with studying for a test that could include anything and everything. 

"I did a lot of research just on successful candidates and they talked about flashcards and I started doing some presidential flashcards," Morgan said. "(It was) not my style, I couldn't get the rhythm." 

He continued to read and watched the show. He also competes in a trivia league through Team Trivia. His team is the two-time defending city champion. They are currently in sixth place. 

Being under the lights and in front of the cameras in the Jeopardy studio did not phase Morgan. 

"It was great," Morgan said. "I've done the teaching thing for nine years now and before that I was a musician. I'm sort of used to being on a stage."

"I was very excited and anticipatory, but I wasn't what I would call nervous," Morgan said. "It was more surreal than anything. I was kind of laughing at this bum from Charlotte hanging out with Alex Trebek." 

Morgan is not allowed to reveal how he did on the show until it airs Monday night.

The students and faculty at Prospect Elementary are excited for Morgan. He joked that he wants to tattoo "January 21, 7 p.m." on him since everyone asks. 

"They're excited as can be and honestly, it was such a flash that I've forgotten about most of what happened," Morgan said. 

He will watch the episode in the restaurant where he attends trivia nights.

"I think I did everyone proud," Morgan said. "I left it all in the studio. I didn't leave anything in the tank." 

In addition to art, teaching and trivia, Morgan is passionate about bringing the Hornets back to Charlotte. 

Even though his packing instructions said not to bring any white clothing, he thought he would try to wear his white Hornets suit. The suit is white with turquoise detailing. While they let him film the promo in it, it ultimately did not work. 

However, astute viewers will notice the Hugo the Hornet pin on his lapel.