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‘Fortune’ Smiles on Dental Hygiene Instructor

A dental hygiene instructor at Pennsylvania College of Technology was the night’s second-biggest winner on Monday’s “Wheel of Fortune” broadcast, spritely spinning and solving her way to $11,900 in cash.

Chosen from a pool of hopefuls when the bright yellow “Wheelmobile” visited the Mohegan Sun casino in Wilkes-Barre in May, Kim Speicher had survived several rounds of auditions on multiple days before flying with her family to an early-August taping in Culver City, Calif.

She referenced that family – Tom, her “wonderful husband of 20 years” (and a writer/video editor at Penn College), and their “beautiful” 10-year-old daughter, Katie – during the show’s preliminaries. She also acknowledged the college, from which she received two degrees in the 1990s, when host Pat Sajak asked to whom she teaches dental hygiene.

“To dental hygiene students, Pat,” she helpfully offered.

Showing the spirited attitude that helped carry her to California, Kim Speicher coaxes the spinning wheel to land on a "big money" space. (Photo by Carol Kaelson, reprinted with permission)
Showing the spirited attitude that helped carry her to California, Kim Speicher coaxes the spinning wheel to land on a “big money” space. (Photo by Carol Kaelson, reprinted with permission)

“Wheel of Fortune” is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and Speicher has been a fan nearly from the beginning, watching with her grandmother on a floor-model television while growing up in Canada. (The TV now resides in the Speichers’ Loyalsock Township home, a still-functioning piece of multigenerational history.)

That enthusiasm and time-tested love of the game shone through during the show’s airing, as Speicher bantered like a TV veteran, even telling Sajak, “You have nice teeth” during a momentary lull in the action.

She was the consummate contestant – gracious, even in competition: encouraging challengers with applause when they scored, wincing alongside them when the 2,500-pound wheel landed on one of the night’s frequent “Bankrupt” spaces and leaping for joy at her own success.

"Wheel of Fortune's" iconic Vanna White joins Kim A. Speicher; daughter, Katie; and mother, Stella Jones.
“Wheel of Fortune’s” iconic Vanna White joins Kim A. Speicher; daughter, Katie; and mother, Stella Jones.

Once Speicher was notified of her selection, while impatiently waiting for the family’s westward adventure, she openly wished only to solve a puzzle on the air and not embarrass herself in the process.

And solve, she did, nailing a pair of toss-ups worth a total of $5,000, the answers to which were “train station” and “bank teller.”

Sandwiched in-between was a ’90s-themed puzzle, the gasp-worthy $6,900 solution to which was “‘Forrest Gump’ Wins Oscar for Best Picture” – a March 1995 event that occurred partway between Speicher’s associate degree in dental hygiene and her bachelor’s in dental hygiene: education concentration.

“It was so much fun watching the show on television. I got nervous all over again!” she said Monday night, after gathering with family and some friends (including Cheryl Newburg, her regular “board game night” pal who auditioned with her in Wilkes-Barre) to watch the telecast.

“It brought back what a great time I had, and I’m very grateful for the experience.”

(For Speicher’s first-person recap, read her Contestant Blog on the “Wheel of Fortune” website.)

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