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Naperville woman advances to semifinals in ‘Jeopardy’ tournament

After winning that “Jeopardy! Wildcard Tournament of Champions” quarterfinal match, Naperville resident Erin Portman is now a semifinalist and advances to the next round of the game show competition, which will air this week.

Portman, who teaches English at Plainfield East High School, first appeared on the television quiz show in January 2022 and then appeared again earlier this month as part of the Season 39 wildcard tournament.

He won $20,200 for a spot in the semifinals on the episode that aired on January 19. The competition will be broadcast on ABC, Monday-Wednesday, January 29-31, at 15:30.

He entered Final Jeopardy in second place in the quarterfinals, but his correct answer combined with a $9,000 bet moved him into first place, beating out California’s Bryan White and Washington, D.C.’s Rachel Clark.

“My favorite part about being on ‘Jeopardy’ again was meeting the wonderful, wonderful people who were also there for the Wildcard Tournament of Champions,” Portman said. “I’ve never had the chance to have so many nerdy, enjoyable conversations filled with fun facts and stories.”

While Portman, 30, isn’t allowed to talk about upcoming plays or how she’s performing until they air, she said she’s comfortable being in front of the camera because she doesn’t suffer from a lot of stage fright. He also praised the Jeopardy cast and host Ken Jennings for their professionalism.

“There’s definitely a bit of adrenaline when you get on stage, and I knew all the other contestants were extremely knowledgeable and quick to the ringer,” Portman said. “But my main goal was to have fun, and being back again was a great addition to the first ‘Jeopardy’ experience, which was nice.”

Portman said her parents and sister helped her practice at both shows and were in the audience to support her.

“It was so much fun to see them there, knowing how excited they were for me to be back on the ‘Jeopardy’ stage,” he said.

Portman said she prepared for the show by reviewing categories she was confident in, such as geography, history and literature, and trying to expand her knowledge of topics she wasn’t as familiar with in case she got a clue that way.

But he said preparation is a lifelong project.

“A lot of what comes up is stuff that you would never think about but is somehow tucked away in the back corner of your brain,” said Portman, who has a master’s degree in English from Boston College.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to know a little bit about a lot of different things.”

Portman’s students and school were big fans of her.

The Plainfield East High School Scholastic Bowl Team gave him a buzzer beater so he could improve his timing. He said the school newspaper interviewed him for a story and he was featured in district announcements.

He said his students were excited to hear he was back in the game.

“We do a lot of trivial things in my classes,” Portman said. “This is something I’m really excited about, so I always hope that by sharing fun facts with them and giving them the chance to share their own fun facts, we can create an idea of ​​how great learning can be, not just in school but for life. .”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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