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Local teacher competes on ‘Jeopardy’

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Patsy Lester, 48, of Patchogue, as well as a teacher at East Islip High School, recently competed on “Jeopardy.” Her episode aired on Jan. 7 and was filmed in November of 2021.

The Islip Bulletin caught up with Lester to talk about her experience on the show that she has been a fan of her whole life, as well as her love of running East Islip’s Mock Trial Team.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

The Islip Bulletin: What was the journey to get to “Jeopardy” like? Did you take the online test first?

Lester: I’ve been a fan of “Jeopardy” my whole life. I used to watch it as a little kid. I watch it every night now. And when we were on lockdown back in March of 2020, I was stir crazy. I was going out of my mind, and I just decided to take the online test. So, I took it and it seemed to go well, but I didn’t really think much about it after it, and it was maybe two months later I got an email saying, ‘You got a qualifying score and we want you to take another test, only this time over Zoom so we can see that it’s just you and you’re not getting any help.’ So, I did that and I guess I did well on that because two or three months after that, they contacted me and said, ‘Okay, we want to do an interview and a mock game.’

Every time they contacted me I just thought it was fun and I never expected to get on. And then they finally called me a few months ago.

The Islip Bulletin What was the filming process like?

Lester: Well, they film five shows in a day. So, they film a whole week in a day. We had to go the day before for COVID testing and then you get to the set at 7 in the morning. It’s filmed at the SONY Pictures Studio in Culver City. They pull contestants out of a hat and they just film all day long. I was the last show of the day, so I had been there for 10 or 11 hours by the time they filmed, watching all these other shows and watching the super champion Amy [Schneider, who has been competing for over 30 days and amassed over a million dollars] just cut through everybody like a knife through butter. It was a little intimidating, but it was fun. It was really fun.

IB: Did you practice at all before your taping?

Lester: I did practice. When I found out I was going to be on the show, my husband looked up all this stuff about “Jeopardy.” And he said there’s this website called J! Archive and it’s made and maintained by fans, and it’s every question that’s ever been on the show and every answer. So, I started using that. I was working and doing other things so I wasn’t obsessively preparing, but I tried to go on it every day and look at it.

IB: What was it like as a fan of “Jeopardy” to just be there and also to meet current host Ken Jennings?

Lester: It was wonderful. When they first walked us onto the set and I got to see the set in person, I couldn’t believe it. Ken was so nice. We only got to interact with him really when we were filming, but he was super personable and very friendly and kind on the set. And Amy [Schneider] was amazing, too. She’s really, really nice. In my show, she crossed the million-dollar mark, so I was standing there with two of the best players to ever play the game: Ken Jennings and Amy Schneider. I was pretty starstruck.

IB: In addition to being a teacher, you also run the Mock Trial Team at East Islip as well, right?

Lester: I’ve been coaching the Mock Trial Team for 22 years now, my whole career. When I was a young teacher in East Islip, there was an attorney in the community who wanted to bring the program to the high school. So, I ended up running it and mock trial is my second life. I’ve been working with kids for years and some go on to become lawyers, some go on to do other things, but we travel to Harvard every year and we go to competitions in New York City. We’ve been doing competitions online in the last year.

IB: What did your students think when they found out you were on “Jeopardy”? Were they excited?

Lester: It was actually kind of ironic because I was keeping it a secret from the kids that I was on, and I was going to tell them on Friday [Jan. 7] but we had a snow day. So, what happened was the kids just started emailing me and contacting me on Google Classroom saying, “Are you on T.V. right now?” It was so funny. 

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