Last fall, Takoma Park Middle School math teacher Sarah Manchester heard “Wheel of Fortune” tryouts were taking place in Northern Virginia, so she went. As a huge fan of the show, why not? She sat on the ground, grading papers, as staffers pulled names by random draw to audition for the legendary game show.
“I figured if my name wasn’t pulled, at least I was getting my work done,” Manchester recalls almost a year later.
As it happened, her name was called and there was a little more excitement in store when she actually made it on the show. On Wednesday night, Manchester, 42, became the third person in the history of “Wheel of Fortune” to win a million dollars.
Manchester’s win thrilled the crowd – and host Pat Sajak – as she answered the bonus round puzzle correctly, “Loud Laughter.” That meant she got to open a bonus round envelope, which after spinning the wheel, turned out to be the $1 million option.
In case you haven’t tuned into “Wheel of Fortune” for awhile, the show introduced the $1 million twist in 2008 to spice things up after many decades (there are a lot of evening game shows to compete with these days) and only two people have won. As you can see from the video, Manchester’s reaction is pretty much exactly what you would expect.
The episode taped in Los Angeles in May, so Manchester had to keep the secret for months. (Her husband, kids and father were also at the taping and weren’t allowed to spill any details.) On Wednesday, family and friends gathered at McGinty’s in Silver Spring, simply excited to see Manchester on TV. Obviously, the crowd exploded when the results were revealed.
In the aftermath of the secret finally being out, Manchester — mom of Raina, 14, and Alden, 8 — sounds calm but a bit dazed. She’s still shocked she made it through two rounds of auditions to be on the show, let alone the fact that she’s now a historic winner.
“I was just stunned,” she says. “Even though I knew that it was a possibility [in the game], it didn’t seem like something that could really happen.”
So, let’s get to the question everyone secretly dreams about and therefore wants to know: You just won a million dollars — what are you going to do with it?
Manchester laughs. She doesn’t anticipate life changing too much, though there might be a few differences. For example, now the whole family can tag along when her daughter’s chorus goes on tour in France next year. Otherwise, she’ll put it toward college tuition savings for the kids (“Now they might have more options that we would have shied away from”) and plans to collaborate with her family about choosing charities to donate some of the winnings.
And how will her sixth and seventh grade students feel about hearing their teacher just became a millionaire on national TV? Manchester won’t see them until Monday, as they have a substitute teacher for the next couple of days while she’s in New York to appear on “Good Morning America.” Still, she’s pretty sure there will be some excitement in class tomorrow.
“I don’t envy the sub,” she jokes.