Richfield STEM School librarian put to the test on ‘Jeopardy!’

Christie Burke of Richfield stood on this set last month as she was quizzed by Alex Trebek. (Photo courtesy "Jeopardy!")
Christie Burke of Richfield stood on this set last month as she was quizzed by Alex Trebek. (Photo courtesy “Jeopardy!”)

Christie Burke has vowed to keep her lips sealed, so don’t bother asking how she did on “Jeopardy!” last month.

The Richfield STEM School librarian is fresh off a trip to Culver City, California, where she participated in the taping of an episode set to air June 1. Until then, Burke has to be careful when discussing her time on the quiz show.

“There are certain people on our staff that are trying to get me to tell them things, but I’m not gonna do that,” Burke pledged.

The 41-year-old Richfield resident is in her second year as a librarian at R-STEM, working in a field full of potential Jeopardy candidates.

“One of the things about being a librarian is you go into this field because you like to know things,” Burke explained.

She’s spent many lunch hours doing the Super Quiz in the daily newspaper, and she think that helped, too. It also helps a potential jeopardy candidate to be surrounded by teachers who bring expertise in all variety of subject matter, Burke said.

However, that doesn’t completely explain her retention abilities. “I don’t know, I just like to know things and my brain holds on to weird facts all the time,” she said.

Additionally, it should be no surprise she’s an avid reader. Experience as a science teacher also helped her cause.

Christie Burke and husband Dan Nordquist enjoy their time in California for their “Jeopardy!” trip. (Submitted photo)
Christie Burke and husband Dan Nordquist enjoy their time in California for their “Jeopardy!” trip. (Submitted photo)

Despite Burke’s mental acumen, the “Jeopardy!” producers made her sweat it out as she wondered whether she made the show. She took a qualifying test almost two years ago, and went to an in-person audition in Kansas City in July 2015, but was left in the dark long after that.

It was the first week of 2017 when Burke was starting to lose hope. “I had just given up and I just started to think, well, I need to take this test again,” she said.

Some people take the qualifying test seven or more times and don’t get the call, she realized. But get the call she did, in the form of a voicemail message that she checked two days late. She found reason for excitement when she finally looked at the message on her phone screen.

“I was like, wait, that’s Culver City, the only people I know in Culver City are ‘Jeopardy!’ people,” Burke recounted.

Along with her husband Dan Nordquist, Burke soon found herself on a plane headed for Los Angeles for the Feb. 22 taping. Nordquist was about to
acquire a new appreciation of his wife’s talents.

In the summers, the couple like to compete in trivia at the Richfield Pizza Lucé, and Nordquist knows he’s not a slouch during those outings. But lately, “I found out she knows way more than I do,” he admitted.

Nordquist is also sworn to secrecy over the show’s results, but he did say, “I was really impressed by the stuff that she came up with during the show.”

Jeopardy is not a flippant operation, with strict rules in place to ensure a fair contest. Nordquist and Burke were separated the day of the taping. “We were specifically forbidden from even looking at each other,” Burke said. “They are very serious.”

At the same time, host Alex Trebek met Burke’s expectations as a gracious host. “He’s a super nice guy. He’s obviously very smart,” Burke said.

While Burke makes sure not to say too much for the next two-plus months, her 13-year-old daughter, Rebecca, is playing her own waiting game; the Richfield Middle School eighth-grader has taken the qualifying test for the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament but hasn’t yet heard back.

Rebecca, her twin brother Adam and their 7-year-old sister Juliana were exposed to Jeopardy long before their mother made the show. The older siblings have been watching it for 10 years, Nordquist said.

Their interest in Jeopardy is sure to remain heightened through June 1. “We’ll have a big party,” Nordquist said.
Don’t take that announcement as a hint, though.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.

  • RustyHammer

    Super cool. Congratulations!