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North Babylon teacher wins $17,550 on 'Wheel of Fortune'
Fifth-grade teacher John Paul Biondo walked into school Thursday morning, taken aback by a fellow teacher dressed as Vanna White from “Wheel of Fortune” guiding him down the hallway to an auditorium packed with 408 elementary students chanting his name.
Biondo, a teacher at Marion G. Vedder Elementary School in North Babylon, won $17,550 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Hawaii, during a Feb. 8 taping of the game show’s “Dad’s Week” in Culver City, Calif.
In advance of the game show’s episode, which aired Thursday night, students and teachers threw a surprise celebration at the school as soon as he walked in at 8:15 a.m.
“Students held pieces of paper in their hands and had me solve a puzzle, which was revealed as ‘Wheel of Fortune Star John Biondo,’” said Biondo, 36, of North Babylon, a married father of two daughters. “It was all a complete surprise to me. I was embarrassed and shocked, but in a good way.”
As a child, Biondo used to watch the show after dinner with his late grandmother.
“My grandmother always told me to try out, so when I got the chance, I put her medallion of a saint in my pocket for good luck,” he said. “She would be so proud of me today.”
After spinning the wheel and landing on “Bankrupt” three times in a row during Thursday’s episode, Biondo finally got going.
He made his biggest score in the “Prize Puzzle,” solving “Strolling Barefoot Along the Shore” for $13,750 in cash and prizes, including the Hawaii trip.
In the “Bonus Round” he missed out on another $30,000, not having enough letters to solve the puzzle, “Puffy Clouds.” But with the money he did win, Biondo plans to make house repairs and travel with his family.
“It was nerve-racking, but I did my best and it turned out to be an amazing experience,” he said. “I was on Cloud Nine once I left the studio and excited and surprised that I accumulated so much money. I wasn’t even aware of how much until it was over.”