As we all know on the wheel of life, sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we’re down, and for first-grade teacher and union president of the Islip Teacher’s Association, Robert Le Vien, fate was …
As we all know on the wheel of life, sometimes we’re up, and sometimes we’re down, and for first-grade teacher and union president of the Islip Teacher’s Association, Robert Le Vien, fate was certainly on his side as he beat the odds to be selected as a contestant on NBC’s classic game show, “Wheel of Fortune.” The show, which taped on Feb. 26 in Los Angeles, recently aired on May 2, lead- ing to a wave of excitement spreading through the Islip School District, as one of their own gave a shout-out to Islip and its team, the Buccaneers.
“Wheel of Fortune,” often known simply by the mononym “Wheel,” is the prototypical television game show and has aired continuously since 1975, when it was created by Merv Griffin. The cur- rent version of the series airs nightly in syndication and premiered in 1983. It still stars the iconic Pat Sajak and the glamorous lady luck herself, Vanna White as hosts.
Le Vien has been overcome by excite- ment from the community and district athis being on the hit show. “I just wanted to take a moment and thank everybody for all of the messages, texts, posts, and calls about my ‘Wheel of Fortune’ experi- ence. I was completely humbled and felt incredibly special,” he said. Many people have also come up to him to inquire about the unique experience, so here are some of the highlights about what it was like for an Islip teacher to be a contestant on the national television show.
It has been a tradition for Le Vien and his family to watch “Wheel” regularly, and even though it was a longshot, he decided to finally take his chance at ful- filling his dream of being a contestant. “My family has been encouraging me to apply for years and years, so I sent in a 45-second video and answered a few questions online. The application info is on the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ website. I never expected I’d hear from the show,” explained the Islip teacher.
However, as he got on with his busy schedule, nearly forgetting about the pending application, about a month lat- er he received a random call from Los Angeles, which he let go to voicemail. It was a message left from a producer want- ing him to do a Zoom interview for the next phase of the process. Once that was completed, it was onto the next round, and then another Zoom audition, where Le Vien was joined by six other potential contestants, who all had to solve puzzles together. At that time, he also had a 15-minute one-on-one interview with a producer.
“I did ok, not great. I truly thought once it was over, there was no way that
and leave a message for someone to get back to you.
I was getting a call back. Two weeks later, I received an email with my orig- inal taping date. Unfortunately, I had a very important meeting I couldn’t miss and declined the taping date. I received an email with the promise of another taping date soon,” said Le Vien, who got another formal invitation three weeks later, which coincided with his February break from school. However, there were still more obstacles to overcome before he could make it to the set and fulfill his lifelong dream.
“The taping date happened to be on the same date we were already booked for Cancun for [my daughter] Mandi’s senior trip,” explained Le Vien. Thank- fully, she was able to stay there with a group of lifelong friends while he flew from Cancun to Los Angeles, and then from L.A. back to New York. “This is when it got real for me,” he stated.
Two weeks later, he found himself on a plane bound for L.A. and arrived in the middle of a freezing monsoon. But that didn’t dampen his excitement.
“When it was time for my episode, I was ready. The actual 30 minutes is still a blur and after watching my show, I clear- ly was my authentic self,” he said, noting that he found himself dancing at one point on air, from excitement, which the hosts seemed to appreciate. “So many of you have asked what happens during the commercials. The show is actually filmed in a true 30 minutes. During the breaks, we leave the wheel and get make- up touched up and the producers give you notes,” Le Vien said, noting, with a laugh, that he was told he was clapping
Islip First-grade teacher Robert Le Vien crossed off an item on his bucket list when appearing
“Pat was very nice and seemed, I
think, to really like my personality. At one point, not on the show, he told me to ‘come out of my shell a little,’ clearly joking. When I realized, after I won the prize puzzle, the odds were that I would go to the bonus round, my tension eased, and I tried to just enjoy the moment. It
is very stressful under the lights, and it is 1,000 percent not as easy solving puzzles as it was from my couch. This entire experience was incredible. It was a moment in my life I won’t soon forget,” he said, still somewhat in disbelief at this surreal but rewarding experience on the wheel of life.
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