Shelton teacher realizes dream on Wheel of Fortune

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Kristen Zack got to live her dream in front of millions of television viewers Tuesday night.

Zack, a first-grade teacher at Elizabeth Shelton School, appeared on Wheel of Fortune, which aired at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.

“It was truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Zack, a former Shelton resident who now lives in Wallingford with her husband, Brad, and young son. “I never thought this would happen in my wildest dreams. It is something I can tell my son about in the years ahead.

“I have to say it is exciting for the students. I was on America’s game show, and everyone gets to see it. I loved being a part of it. It is still not setting in about how big this was for me."

The results of the show, taped on Columbus Day weekend, remained secret until broadcast. Zack took home $3,500 and finished second.

“Being there and competing was so much fun, but it was harder than you think,” said Zack, adding how much more difficult the “toss-ups” on set were — as opposed to sitting at home battling her husband.

Zack said she first started watching Wheel of Fortune and answering the puzzles from her home some 10 years ago, and the rest is history. She said she fell in love with the program that has been on televisions since 1975. The syndicated version with Pat Sajak and Vanna White began airing in 1982.

It was this love of the game that prompted Zack to travel to Foxwoods in summer 2018 when the Wheel Mobile was on site. The Wheel Mobile offers people a chance to play, win prizes and earn an audition for a chance to appear in a future live show. While she was not chosen to play that day, her name was in the system, and after sending in an audition video, she was called back.

After a live audition, some tests and personal interviews, Zack said she again waited — and the call finally came. Zack’s and her husband traveled Culver City, a section of Los Angeles, on Coumbus Day weekend for the filming.

Zack appeared with two fellow contestants with Sajak and White.

“Pat Sajak and Vanna White, and everyone on the set, was so welcoming,” said Zack. “They really made you feel as comfortable as possible. You really need tunnel vision when the cameras start.”

Zack said playing for the television audience is different than solving the puzzles on the comfort of your couch at home.

“I did not want to let my nerves get the best of me, I just kept focusing on the fact that, no matter the outcome, I made the game show that I had dreamed about being on,” Zack said. “I went in thinking ‘I’m OK if I do not win ... just getting here was incredible.’ Just think about it … millions of people want to be where I was. It was the experience of a lifetime.”