Peter Buchholz ’07 M.A., a sixth-grade U.S. history and language arts teacher at Chaska Middle School West, was a semifinalist in the “2016 Jeopardy! Teachers Tournament.” The tourney aired over two weeks beginning May 2.
Along with 14 other teachers from across the United States, he embarked on a quest for a grand prize of $100,000 that began on the game show’s Los Angeles soundstage. There, Buchholz bested two contestants to advance to the semifinal round, held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
To win a spot in the tournament, Buchholz went through the same audition process as all contestants, taking the initial 50-clue online test, and later attending, by invitation, an in-person audition held last June in Kansas City.
“At the audition you take another 50-clue test and then play a short ‘Jeopardy!’ game with two other candidates and do a short interview,” Buchholz said. “The test was similar to the ‘answers’ presented on ‘Jeopardy!’.”
Buchholz – who coaches his school’s Knowledge Bowl team and has enjoyed success with friends in trivia tournaments held in local bars – has long believed he had a good shot of making the show at some point in his life if he continued taking the online test. He came close in 2013 when he was invited to audition but did not make the cut.
“I was told the first time I auditioned that many people who make it onto ‘Jeopardy!’ have auditioned multiple times,” he said. “Being a teacher, I also knew that I would be eligible for the teacher’s tournament.” Still, he was completely surprised when he got the call last January from ‘Jeopardy!’ producers.
“I saw a call on my phone from Culver City, California, and ran out of a meeting with my sixth-grade team to answer it,” he said. “It was very exciting! Our meeting lost its focus when I returned with the news.”
Though Buchholz fell just short in the semis, he – and all the tournament contestants – walked away with a $2,500 grant from Farmers’ Insurance to use as they wish at their respective schools. In the first quarterfinal match-up Buchholz told “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek that he intends to use the funds to purchase innovative classroom furniture, including a kidney bean-shaped table and standing desks that will promote collaborative learning among his students.
Buchholz received his teaching licensure and master’s degree from the School of Education.