Joe Rengstorf, a special education teacher at Ridgetop Middle School, was eliminated Monday night in the semifinals of Jeopardy’s 2019 Teachers Tournament.
The Poulsbo resident was one of fifteen teachers across the country competing for the $100,000 prize and a berth in the Tournament of Champions. The Teachers Tournament began airing Monday, May 6 and will go on until May 17, when a winner will be announced.
Rengstorf won his group May 6, winning $20,401, earning him a spot in the semifinals. Even though he didn’t advance to the final three, Rengstorf will still go home with $10,000. Sara Delvillano, a middle school instrumental music teacher in Lanham, Maryland, won Monday’s group with $7,599 to advance to the finals. Rengstorf finished second in the group with $5,399.
Some of the notable questions that Rengstorf answered correctly include UCLA and Auburn in the colleges and universities category and a question about Scotch. The three contestants thrived in the film category, with Rengstorf nailing questions about Thelma and Louise and Dr. Strangelove correct.
A moment of irony arose when another competitor correctly answered a question about grunge music before Rengstorf could press his buzzer. Given grunge’s native home of Seattle, Rengstorf’s reaction betrayed his disappointment.
Rengstorf fared well in the geography category and also answered a question correctly about Al Gore and climate change. He even managed to nab a daily double question before Final Jeopardy began.
About halfway through the show, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek took some time to get to know the fellow teachers. Trebek stated that some people describe Rengstorf’s teaching style as unique because he wants to earn the respect of his students.
Rengstorf replied “I don’t know who described that as unique,” as laughter began to emerge from the audience. “I try to build relationships and that’s kind of the foundation of my teaching.”
Trebek then asked Rengstorf what the most difficult thing is about earning respect from students.
“I think it’s convincing them that they can do it and to want to do the work themselves instead of me pulling them along,” Rengstorf said. “Getting them to believe in themselves.”