The fourth time proved to be the charm as Keller teacher Laura Cheng achieved a lifelong dream this summer when she competed and won “big money” on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Cheng’s episode, part of Teacher’s Week, aired at 6:25 p.m. Sept. 12 on KTVT/Channel 11. She was the big winner of the evening, winning $11,200 during the regular rounds and solving the puzzle “HOUSE PARTY” in the Bonus Round to win another $35,000.
As part of her winnings in the regular rounds, she won something she was told no game show contestant in the United States had ever won before: a trip to Cuba.
She was worried after hitting the bankrupt slot in the early rounds, but by solving a few puzzles, her fortunes quickly changed.
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For Cheng, it took time and tenacity to become a contestant on her favorite game show.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” Cheng said. “They were going to have to pick me eventually.”
She hopes her perseverance will inspire her students to achieve their dreams, too.
Cheng, an English as a Second Language teacher at Whitley Road Elementary and Willis Lane Elementary, isn’t the first Keller teacher to appear on a popular game show. Back in May, Keller High history teacher David Clemmons won the $100,00 grand prize Jeopardy Teachers Tournament.
One of her earliest memories from age 4 is gathering magnetic letters from the front of her grandma’s refrigerator while they watched the game show together. Cheng’s watched the “Wheel” ever since.
Because she had always been good at solving puzzles at home, she decided to try out at age 18. Now 30, she would try out three more times before she made the cut, learning something new about the process in each go-round.
Remember to smile. Have lots of energy. Speak loudly.
The key to finally cracking the code?
Cheng listened to podcasts about getting on game shows.
She remembers “Rob Has a Podcast" as one of the most helpful.
Before getting an invitation to an audition, you have to take an online test and upload a video of yourself. Cheng was invited to try out for the fourth time during a May “Wheel of Fortune” contestant audition in Dallas and finally made it through to the show. Another way to become a contestant is to visit “Wheelmobile,” a specially equipped RV that travels the country to host open auditions.
Her sister, Jill Goerner, a teacher in Denton who lives in Grapevine, helped quiz her by making up dozens of flash cards with “Wheel of Fortune” type puzzles.
Cheng was part of Teachers Week, which was recorded on a single day in July.
She might have tried out more than four times, if she hadn’t lived in Hong Kong for four years teaching English. It was there that she met her husband and biggest fan, Luen Cheng.
“He was sure I was going to win a million, even though only three people ever have won it,” she said. “He was already talking about how we would spend the money.”
Now the couple plan to use her winnings as a down payment on a house.