What is Dartmouth?" That's the answer (in the form of a question) high school teacher Susannah Nichols correctly gave in May during the final round of Jeopardy! to earn a semifinals spot in the show's Tournament of Teachers, winning a cool $10,000 for herself and another $2,500 for a project of her choosing at The Roeper School in Birmingham.
A teacher for 15 years, Nichols has taught English at Roeper for the past dozen. It was about a decade ago when she first took an online test to qualify as a contestant for the popular show.
"I'm not sure when I took the online test – maybe about 10 years ago. They offer it about once a year. Mostly, I just did it for fun. I never expected it to go anywhere,” Nichols said of the contestant process.
It was 2014 when Jeopardy! first contacted Nichols, offering an invitation for an audition. Eventually, an audition in 2016 at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, in Detroit, led to a spot in the show's Teachers Tournament. Filmed over two days in March in Culver City, California, Nichols was required to keep the results of the show under wraps until after the airing was completed in May.
"My classes knew, but they didn't know the results until it aired," she said. "The first night it aired was the night of the Spring Formal, and the students crammed into the bar area to watch it. You would have thought it was the Superbowl. They were just going crazy."
When the Final Jeopardy! category stated: "A town named for its location where a river in Devon meets the English Channel, it's also the name of a college in New Hampshire," Nichols finished with the most money and advanced to the semifinals. While she didn't make it to the next round after her second show, Nichols came home to support from her students, and with a $2,500 prize from Farmers Insurance for a special project at The Roeper School.
"All of us as teachers were honored to compete," she said. "It's a great honor to do it, and not only represent yourself and state, but to go and represent my school and the teaching profession."
The $2,500 prize, she said, is being used to purchase books by and about under-represented minorities for the libraries at the high school and the grade school, which is located in Bloomfield Hills.
Originally from Baltimore, Nichols attended the University of Michigan, staying here to teach for about three years before coming to The Roeper School.
"High school is such an amazing time of development for people, it's nice to see them at different times in their student career," she said. "I try to bring a lot of elements of social justice into my literature classes to use literature to help us to be better citizens and how we approach the world."
As far as her experience on Jeopardy!, Nichols said her studies and career in English was useful at times.
"I like a lot of biblical writing, and the bible comes up frequently on the show. There was a tricky one that dealt with a quote from the King James Bible, and one of my Daily Doubles was on Shakespeare," she said. "I probably wouldn't use those (questions) on a test, but I'm not ruling anything out."
Photo: Jean Lannen