Robin Cheney can speak four languages, majored in English and minored in art history. She has traveled the world and marveled at some of the outstanding wonders on earth—natural and man-made.
Next stop: Jeopardy!
The Rancho Santa Margarita woman has plenty of knowledge and puts it to good use on a regular basis. She’s a middle school teacher at Rancho Viejo Montessori School who’s pretty comfortable answering questions from sixth graders. The real challenge: Can she hold her own with Alex Trebek?
“He's intelligent, debonair, all business,” Cheney said, recalling the day earlier this year when she was an alternate on the show and got a chance to see the 72-year-old legend from the sidelines. "He's an interesting guy."
Cheney, better known as Miss Robin at school, will taping Monday and Tuesday on the Jeopardy set at Sony Studios in Culver City for the teacher tournament. Ten shows will be filmed during the two-day session. The air date should be about Nov. 7, she said.
Even though she has yet to answer a question on camera, Cheney is already a winner. Each of 15 teachers receives $5,000 for being selected to the quarterfinal round, with the opportunity to win incrementally more as they advance. The winner of the tournament could end up playing a very taxing three matches on Tuesday where the payoff could be significant—and qualify for the Tournament of Champions where earnings can be even higher.
However, some of Miss Robin's winnings are already earmarked: "I've already committed to taking the class to ice cream."
She says if she does win anything significant, "it will add to my travels."
Cheney has been to 20 countries on four continents. She was amazed by the manmade sights in China, but found the cloud forest in Ecuador "the most beautiful thing you can imagine" as part of a summer teaching excursion.
Born in upstate New York, she attended school early on in Holland, though she says she no longer can speak Dutch. She can, however, speak Spanish, sign language and "survivor French."
Her family moved to Orange County when she was 10 and she graduated from Laguna Hills High in 1992 before attending Cal Poly Pomona. She began teaching at Rancho Viejo in 1998.
While at Laguna Hills, she was on the academic decathlon team.
"I think that's a precursor to the Jeopardy mindset," Cheney said. "My team got second in the nation and I had the first-place essay. That quiz mentality has always been with me."
Cheney said she's "pretty happy" to be one of only 400 people per year selected to appear on the show, but she's also a realist.
"Everyone there," she said, "will be just as smart as I am."
As the big day advances, she admits her nerves come and go, and success is really all about keeping composure and shining when the spotlight's on.
"The whole game is based on 20 minutes," Cheney said. "There's a lot to keep track of when you go up there. You have to work the buzzer, answer in the form of a question."
By now, she is now far removed from the online test that she took "for fun" and the practice game she played in a hotel ballroom with other hopefuls. It's very nearly showtime, and Miss Robin has only the weekend to bone up for the game of her life.
"I've been accused of having a wealth of useless knowledge," she said. "I love knowledge and learning."