Local Teacher will get a shot at $1 million

Philip C. Showell Elementary School teacher Kathleen Yuhanick said she never expected to be testing her trivia knowledge on national television, in front of hundreds of thousands viewers. But that’s exactly what she’ll be doing later this summer when she returns to ABC Studios in New York City to play as a contestant on the hit game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Special to the Coastal Point • JESSE PRYOR: Kathleen Yuhanick will fly to New York City to be a contestant on the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" this summer. The show will air during the show's next season.Special to the Coastal Point • JESSE PRYOR
Kathleen Yuhanick will fly to New York City to be a contestant on the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" this summer. The show will air during the show's next season.
The long process began in early December, when Yuhanick filled out forms at Hocker’s G&E grocery store, entering her for a trip to watch the broadcasting of the game show. “I put my name in twice and never thought anything about it,” she said.

A few days later, Yuhanick received a phone call from Salisbury Channel 47 affiliates, congratulating her on being selected to see the show in New York. Once at the television studio in the Big Apple, she was given the chance to try her hand at a test that could qualify her as a contestant on the show.

Out of roughly 150 people who sat through the three-hour recording of the show, nearly 75 took the test. Those who opted to were assigned a number, and then given 10 minutes to answer 30 questions.

“[The questions] were random,” Yuhanick said. “They ran the gamut of miniscule trivia. One of them was about a rap singer, Usher, and ‘What was his one-word song that was a Grammy winner?’ I still remember all the questions.”

Being a coach for SAT preparation, she admitted to using the skills that she instructs.

“I went through the whole test and answered the ones I knew,” she said, “and there were six that I was unsure of. I used process of elimination with them.”

Upon completion, the tests were scored, and Yuhanick’s number was the third of only five called from the 75 test-takers.

Next, the five were instructed to complete a two-page form from which an interview was based. “It asked questions like, ‘What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?’ and ‘What would you do if you won the million dollars?’” Yuhanick said. “They sent me to another table and brought two people over to talk to me. The other four didn’t get that, so I think I was the only one.”

Following the interview, she was told she would be notified if chosen. Two weeks later, a letter in the mail informed her that she was in the contestant pool, earning her a guaranteed spot in the show’s “hot seat.” Though she has already been notified that she will be a contestant, she will not return to the New York studio until this summer for the recording, and the episode will be aired in the new season, starting in September.

The show has undergone some changes since its 1999 debut, when it was hosted by Regis Philbin on NBC. Then, contestants were chosen from a small in-studio pool, based on their answer to a multiple-choice “fast finger” question. Now contestants are brought on through test and questioning processes, as was Yuhanick’s experience. The show switched to daily, daytime airings with hostess Meredith Vieira in 2002, with hopes to improve ratings. September 2006 marked the airing of the show’s sixth-season episodes.

It may seem a far way off, but Yuhanick said she is starting her preparation early. “I’m going to brush up on the Asian continent,” she said with a laugh. “I pretty much know Europe, South America and Central America. I teach social studies, math and reading. I’ve been a French teacher and computer teacher. I’ve done a little bit of everything.” She refrains from mentioning any weak topics, so as not to give herself a disadvantage.

Yuhanick admitted to watching the show often to try to get a feel for the questions. “It’s really tough,” she said. “Some nights, I’ll see questions that I hope they ask me. Then, other nights, I won’t have a clue about any of them. We’ll see,” she said. “I just have to be ready for anything.”

Yuhanick, a retired Maryland school teacher, spent 31 years teaching in Baltimore County, working with every grade level of middle and elementary school. She has helped high school students with SAT preparation and tutoring, as well.

She has been at Selbyville’s Philip C. Showell Elementary for two years, following her move to the area. After applying for a substitute-teaching position at Showell, she was hired the next day and, soon after, offered a contract. In addition, she earned a master’s degree at Wilmington College and is now a certified reading specialist. “I love learning,” she said. “I’m a life-long learner.”

Since she surprised her students with the news, Yuanick said they have been very supportive and elated. “They come in every day and say, ‘Did you see that question, Mrs. Yuhanick?’ ‘Did you know that one?’ Sometimes, I think they’re expecting me to be on that day. They’re watching every episode. They’re learning from it, too.”

Her husband and two children have been very supportive, also. “It’s really exciting,” she said. “Hopefully, I don’t botch it.”