UNION, NJ - “U.S. Memorials” was the Final Jeopardy! answer on Tuesday night’s Jeopardy! episode in which Burnet Middle School teacher Jason Sterlacci had $20,000 to wager.
None of the three contestants could come up with the correct question of “What are the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri?”, memorials marking the beginning and end of World War II. Sterlacci was on the right track with his answer of the Pearl Harbor and Arizona Memorials. Sterlacci’s wager of $1,000 left him with a final total of $19,000 beating his next closest competitor by $14,000.
“Watching myself on television was surreal, especially with my two year-old son watching,” said Sterlacci. “He kept pointing at me on TV, yelling 'Daddy!’ and then turning to me and turning back to the TV.”
Sterlacci is featured on the 2016 Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament presented by Farmers Insurance, where teachers compete over the course of two weeks for the title of Teachers Tournament Champion, a grand prize of $100,000, and an invitation to the Tournament of Champions.
Analyzing his performance, Sterlacci said, “I was very excited in the moment about making it to the semifinals and in the moment was very nervous, which is why my wagering on the last Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! were so off.”
Farmers Insurance, through its Thank America’s Teachers Program, will present each of the contestants with a $2,500 educational grant to fund classroom projects. Sterlacci, who lives in Somerset, said he plans on starting a creative writing program.
“This will be a school-wide after-school program, at least for the pilot program, which will begin in May,” said Sterlacci, a 6th grade English teacher. “We’re going to take student writings that are exemplary, creative and interesting and go through the editing and revising process. We’re going to use the grant money to publish these writings in book and eBook forms. I’d like it to be a real hands-on experience of the book publishing business.”
The top nine performers from this week’s shows went to Washington, D.C. for the championship rounds. “Getting to go to Washington DC (where I went to school) was awesome. Other than New Jersey, it's my favorite place on Earth,” said Sterlacci.
Sterlacci’s semifinal game will air on Wednesday, May 11.