Modesto teacher Baltazar "Rick" Pinedo's three-night run on "Jeopardy!" ended Wednesday.
"Yeah, I went out in a blaze of glory," Pinedo said with a chuckle before the show aired Wednesday. He earned more than $26,000 during his three nights on the quiz show. Tuesday night's appearance was his best, winning $25,400. He crashed and burned Wednesday, ending the episode's Final Jeopardy! question with $0.
Pinedo, 34, and his wife will use the winnings to travel to Hawaii and Europe this summer.
It was a busy week for Pinedo because the shows aired during the last week of the school year.
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In addition to the money, Pinedo earned some fame this week. After The Bee story detailing his appearance ran Monday, two local TV stations interviewed Pinedo.
Pinedo teaches English language development at Marshall Elementary. His school held an assembly Wednesday at which students played a mock "Jeopardy!" game and watched Pinedo's show from Monday.
Pinedo has been flooded with good wishes from students, co-workers, community members and former classmates.
"I appreciate the really nice reaction I'm getting from the Facebook community, from my friends and acquaintances," he said. "One friend, he wrote that growing up, we didn't have a lot of positive role models. He thanked me for being a good role model."
The attention has been overwhelming and scary at times, but Pinedo said he's trying to enjoy his 15 minutes of fame.
"I'm having a lot of fun. I'm trying to keep cool. I'm just rolling with it. I'll be over very soon, so I'm just trying to have fun."
Pinedo expressed awe for "Jeopardy!" contestants who go the distance. He taped the three episodes in less than three hours in March. He said the adrenaline took over for the first and second shows, but he slowed down on episode three. Starting his run with an ear infection didn't help.
Despite that, Pinedo excelled in two categories, "bodies of water" and "world religion," answering all the clues in the latter category correctly.
Pinedo placed his time on "Jeopardy!" as one of the top five experiences of his life.
"I think it helped give students a sense that there are more palpable things to do with knowledge," he said. "This is an example of how knowing things can be just fun, that it's not just about the application."
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.