Think you can outsmart your teachers? This one’s on Jeopardy.

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Think you can outsmart your teachers? This one’s on Jeopardy.

Jevan Yu and Benjamin Huang

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On school days, you’ll find him standing outside Room 308 at Palo Alto High School to greet his students with an “Hola” or a “Buenos días.” He also happens to be competing on the nation’s preeminent quiz show.

Trevor Crowell, who is in his first year as a Spanish teacher at Paly, will appear on an edition of Jeopardy’s Teacher Tournament, set to air May 7.

Palo Alto High School Spanish teacher Trevor Crowell stands outside his classroom. Crowell competed on Jeopardy, where he met Alex Trebek, the show’s esteemed host. “He’s pretty sick right now, so he had some kind of heart wrenching answers he gave to some of the [audience] questions,” Crowell said. “But in general, he’s a really cool guy. It was tons of fun.” Photo: Jevan Yu

Has he always had a knack for trivia and memorizing facts?

“I wouldn’t really say that,” Crowell said in an interview with The Paly Voice. “I think reading was a huge advantage — anyone who goes on the show has done a lot of reading.” 

After taking an online tryout test — his second attempt at making it on the show — in April, Crowell earned a bid to the in-person tryout stage in San Francisco, which took place in July.

“The audition was fun,” Crowell said. “I thought that would be the end of it.”

But earlier this year, he said, he received notification that he’d won a spot on the real show.

Then came the preparation: Although Crowell said it’s difficult to study for the broad range of topics that Jeopardy covers, he touched up on subjects that were rustier for him, such as Shakespeare, opera and ballet. He also spent time studying U.S. history and world geography, categories which often appear in Jeopardy’s clues.

He couldn’t disclose the details of his performance on the show, which was taped earlier this month, but he said that the experience was both stressful and exciting.

“It was nerve-wracking, for sure,” Crowell said. “My girlfriend helped me a lot by showing me a compilation of the most embarrassing Jeopardy moments of all time … one of my goals going in was to not embarrass myself, and I think I accomplished that.”

“Sometimes, if someone gives a really terrible answer, Alex will say, ‘Oh, no!’” Crowell said of Alex Trebek, the show’s host. “And I really did not want to hear that. But he didn’t say that the whole game, so that was good, I feel like we did O.K. in that respect.”

In past years, the winner of the Teachers Tournament has taken home a $100,000 prize and earned a berth in the Tournament of Champions, which typically airs in November.

Kevin Duffy, another Paly Spanish teacher, described Crowell as “very modest” and said Crowell unassumingly broke the news about being on the show to the language department staff.

“We’re really proud of him,” Duffy said. “A celebrity in our midst.”