When not teaching music to students at Munsey Park Elementary School in Manhasset, Patrick Dillon loves testing his own knowledge. Dillon said his passion for trivia was nurtured inside his childhood home in Huntington, where, as a first grader, he started watching “Jeopardy!” with his father.
“We were always trying to beat each other,” said Dillon, 31. “It took me a few years, but I finally started beating him.”
His father, Peter Dillon, died in December 2006, but Patrick Dillon said his father was on his mind last month as he fulfilled a longtime dream of competing on their favorite game show.
Dillon was one of 15 educators from across the country selected to compete in the “Jeopardy!” 2013 Teachers Tournament, which began airing last week. He advanced to the semifinals before losing in an episode that aired Tuesday night to social studies teacher Becky Giardina of Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga.
Dillon, who now lives in Astoria, filmed the shows in October. He didn’t win the top "Jeopardy!" prize -- $100,000 and a spot in the show's annual Tournament of Champions -- but he did leave the show with $10,000 and a Classroom Jeopardy unit for his school.
In the episode broadcast on Nov. 12, Dillon defeated reading teacher Kati Sorenson, of Nebraska’s Elkhorn Middle School, and Mary Beth Hammerstrom, a social studies, economics and criminology teacher at A.J. Dimond High School in Anchorage, Ala., to advance to the semifinals.
Dillon, a self-described avid reader, said he took an early lead in Round 1 on Nov. 12, where the contestants were tested on their knowledge of volcanoes, mythology, eight-letter words, races and history.
“I was pretty happy with the history category,” said Dillon, who majored in the subject as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. before pursuing a graduate degree in music at New Jersey’s Westminster Choir College.
His history background was also helpful during Final Jeopardy when asked to identify the Rosetta Stone. Both Dillon and Hammerstrom had the correct response, but Dillon said his wager of $7,502 put him over the edge. He finished with a final score of $26,702.
He may have even inspired his students.
“Some of the kids have asked, ‘How do I get to be on ‘Jeopardy!’?’” Dillon said. “I tell them: ‘Be curious and read.’”