Katie Kirby, Coles Ferry Elementary School first-grade teacher, had more than $24,000 in cash and prizes going into the bonus round.
And when she correctly guessed “fresh papaya” on the bonus puzzle, her winnings jumped to $59,150 in cash and prizes, including a Mazda CX-5. Her appearance on the show aired Wednesday night on CBS.
“It was wonderful. I loved it. I had so much fun,” Kirby said.
Kirby said she auditioned for the show five years ago but was not chosen after she performed poorly on the written test during the screening process. It was her husband, Keith, who suggested she try out again last spring.
She said auditions were held in Louisville, Kentucky, which was in their driving path while they traveled at the time. Kirby said she performed better on the written test and received a call about a week later to appear on the show.
“After I got the call, I became nervous. I lost about 10 pounds just from being nervous and stressing about it,” she said.
Kirby’s appearance on the show came two weeks later on her husband’s birthday. The couple and her parents went to California for the show. Kirby said her nerves disappeared right before show time when she did something she thinks propelled her to her big night.
“I prayed, and I knew God had me, and he would guide me through the outcome,” said Kirby, who said her nerves immediately vanished.
“It was crazy. If you look at the tape, I shake my head as I keep winning, because I couldn’t believe what was happening. I figured I would just appear on the show and get the $1,000 for being on there,” she said.
Kirby said meeting the show’s hosts, Pat Sajak and Vanna White, was also a great moment during her time on the show.
“They were so awesome. They came and talked to everybody while we were practicing. They were great,” she said.
Kirby and her family had to keep her performance a secret until Wednesday night’s show aired, and she said the response to her appearance was overwhelming.
“I got so many messages, calls and posts [Wednesday] night. It’s been crazy getting all this love from the community and friends and even people I don’t know,” she said.
Kirby credited God for her performance and good fortune on the show.
“God was with me the whole time. He allowed me to think clearly, and I was able to do what I did,” she said.