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Oakdale woman takes a spin on the ‘Wheel of Fortune’
Local teacher appeared during ‘Girlfriend Getaways’ week
An Oakdale woman recently appeared on “Wheel of Fortune,” the 31-year-old game show based on the popular game “Hangman,” in which contestants buy letters to solve word puzzles to win cash and fun prizes.
Jessica Kiefer, a teacher and Oakdale resident, competed on the episode that aired March 26 on WCCO with one of her best friends, fellow teacher Kristin Wasil of Temperance, Mich.
Kiefer, a Tartan High School graduate, is a second-grade teacher with the Robbinsdale School District at Noble Elementary School in Golden Valley.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she spent six years teaching in Fort Myers, Fla., where she met Wasil, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher at the same elementary school.
“I thought [teaching in Florida] would be a fun experience after I graduated [college] and the school district had a slogan - ‘Teach by the Beach’ - which caught my eye,” she explains.
The two friends would come home after work and turn on the television just in time to watch “Wheel of Fortune,” Kiefer recalls.
“We were watching it one day and thought it would be fun to apply online,” she says.
Little did the pair know that their application would lead them to beat out 200 other hopefuls, appear on national television and win a hefty chunk of change.
Lengthy audition process
The online contestant application at www.wheeloffortune.com asks a series of questions regarding occupation, marital status and family life. It also requires a headshot and audition video.
“We sent a one-minute video as an audition, and about six or seven months later [in April 2013] we got an email saying they were having auditions in the area and they wanted us to come try out.”
The friends took a two-hour road trip to Clearwater, Fla., where they auditioned as a team. More people audition as individuals, Kiefer explains, so auditioning together gave them an advantage over the hundreds of other hopefuls.
“For auditions, they would call our name and have us stand up – basically how well you can follow directions.
“Then we got five minutes to solve puzzles individually on a piece of paper. Some of the puzzles would have just a few of the letters and some were blank.”
“They said we’d get a call back if we made it to the next round of auditions,” she says.
Luckily, the two did receive that phone call and were invited to do a second round of auditions.
“During the second audition, we actually got to get out of our seats and play a real game of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’” Kiefer says. “They told us if we were going to be on, they’d send us a letter in the next few weeks.”
Then, in January 2014, the duo received an email invitation to a taping of the show in Los Angeles.
“They told us they were going to be filming two weeks from the date of email,” Kiefer says. “And ‘Could we make it?’”
So the two hopped a plane and jetted off to sunny California to try their hand at winning big.
“So much fun”
The weekly theme of the episode Kiefer and Wasil appeared on was “Girlfriend Getaways,” a brand-new iteration of the show’s “Best Friends” week where two friends compete as a team.
Three teams of two women competed on a Southwest-themed set, solving puzzles that were “directed toward girls,” Kiefer says.
Despite appearing before a live studio audience, Kiefer says her nerves never gave her any problems.
“I thought I was going to be nervous, but I was really excited,” she says. “I think it would be harder to be by yourself, but for ‘Girlfriend Getaways’ your best friend is there with you and you can chat.
“They did our hair and makeup. I felt like a celebrity!”
And not only did the two women have a blast solving the puzzles, but they returned home with an extra $10,750 between them. Kiefer says she plans to use some of her winnings to finance trips to visit friends in Florida.
“I like to travel, so I’ll use it for some trips back to Florida. I’ve gone there a few times this year.”
As for her class of second-graders, “They all knew and were excited. We had parent conferences the week before spring break, and all the parents were asking about it and some said they were going to record it.”
The show aired while Noble Elementary was on spring break, during which time Kiefer was on one of her trips back to Florida. She says she and some friends watched the episode and had a party to celebrate.
“I just had so much fun,” she says.