JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — Earlene Person's appearance as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, which aired Monday night, fulfilled a promise she made to her father before he died 22 years ago.
Pearson, a special education support facilitator and assistant drama director at Martin County High School for the past 10 years, won $7,000 on the popular, long-running program, though she did not advance to the bonus round.
Her appearance was taped Aug. 10 to be aired on the first night of Wheel's "Teacher's Week" series.
"I'm brilliant and stupid and lucky and unlucky and nervous and calm, all in 30 minutes," Pearson said of her performance.
To accumulate the $7,000 in prize money, which won't be paid for 120 days after the program airs, Pearson solved the first two puzzles, including a tossup and a regular puzzle.
The tossup answer, "The Iliad and The Odyssey," was when she looked brilliant, she said. The other successful solve was something any teacher would be familiar with: "Food fight in the cafeteria."
Her "stupid" moment, she said, was when she didn't notice one of her spins landed on a "Free" space, and because of a hearing loss she didn't hear "Wheel" host Pat Sajak tell her she could take a free vowel.
She also guessed wrong on the final spin puzzle "Making an educated guess," saying "Taking" instead of "Making."
Pearson watched the show Monday night at Conchy Joe's Seafood Restaurant & Bar, which threw a special "Wheel" watching party for her.
A longtime "Wheel" watcher, Pearson said that since her appearance as a contestant, she now watches the show with much more compassion for the contestants. "Your brain pretty much leaves your body when you're up there," she said.
Pearson said she used to watch the show with her father, and he was never able to get on the show so she told him she would do it.
"It was something that was on my bucket list," Pearson said.
She began going 12 years ago to "Wheel" auditions when the Wheelmobile would come to South Florida. She was selected on her fourth try, though passing that first audition is only the beginning of a long, arduous process to actually get on the show as a contestant.