PV teacher spins her luck

Johnson to be on ‘Wheel of Fortune’


Contributed by Lauren Johnson

Pascack Valley math teacher Lauren Johnson stands on the set of “Wheel of Fortune.” The episode will be airing Thursday Night on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 7.

Ellie Kim and Ava Devincenzo

Pascack Valley math teacher Lauren Johnson learned the alphabet by watching “Wheel of Fortune” as a toddler. 

“I actually remember watching [‘Wheel of Fortune’] before I could even read,” Johnson said. “I remember knowing the letters, but not being able to read the words.”

I actually remember watching [‘Wheel of Fortune’] before I could even read. I remember knowing the letters, but not being able to read the words.”

— PV math teacher Lauren Johnson

Still an avid “Wheel of Fortune” watcher, Johnson decided to try her luck at being a contestant on the show, a decision which paid off in the end. Johnson’s Wheel of Fortune episode airs Thursday night on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 7 as a part of Teacher’s Week. 

In October of 2018, Johnson went to an open casting call two hours away at Mount Airy Lodge in Pennsylvania. 

“It was a lottery system,” Johnson said. “There were hundreds of people there and maybe only 100 were called.”

During the audition, Johnson’s name was called out of 500 people to go on stage. In order to make it through to the next round, people had to be animated and have a presence that the judges felt was right for the show, according to Johnson.

Johnson said she set herself apart from the other contestants by being charismatic and outgoing. She was then invited to a second audition in Philadelphia in October. There, she had to show her problem solving skills. 

“They tested if I could solve puzzles well,” Johnson said. “In order to impress them, I tried to be personable with them.”

After successfully making it through the second audition, Johnson was approved to be on the show.

Johnson was put into a contestant pool in November, and was later called in July of 2019 to film the episode she would be in. Johnson was on vacation with her husband in the west coast before getting the call, so she extended her summer vacation in Washington in order to film.

“We flew from Seattle to San Francisco, and then we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible down to LA,” Johnson said. 

The day of filming, she had to be on the set by 7 a.m. Johnson had her hair and makeup done by professionals, and while in the waiting room, Vanna White wished her and the other contestants good luck. Johnson thought that being on the set and seeing the set on television are two totally different experiences. 

“The set looked really small,” Johnson said. “They make it look huge on television, but it was a lot smaller in real life. And the wheel is so heavy, you have to really, really, turn it hard. I got to watch a couple of episodes before. I was the fourth episode being taped that day, so I was able to see the behind the scenes and how the whole thing works.”

I think she’s going to be perfect and I can’t wait to see her on television.”

— PV math teacher Nancy Ricca

In addition to getting the opportunity to win the “Wheel of Fortune,” each contestant is guaranteed $1,000. 

“They don’t pay for your accommodations or your flight, you have to pay for all that yourself,” Johnson said. 

In preparation to be on the show, Johnson practiced every night by watching puzzles on television and playing on the app. She went onto the show fully confident in her abilities and the possibility of her winning. 

Johnson is not the only one excited to watch herself on the “Wheel of Fortune.” Math teacher Nancy Ricca and other PV faculty members plan to watch the episode as well. 

“We have Back to School Night, so we’re all going out afterwards and we’re going to watch it together,” Ricca said. “We’re all very excited because in order to be on the ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ you have to be bubbly, you have to smile a lot, and she is like that. I think she’s going to be perfect and I can’t wait to see her on television.”