"She's certainly mature beyond her age," her father Mark Scanlan tells the The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. "Most people take her for at least six years older."
Adds Teresa's mom Jamie, "She's an independent young woman and always has been."
Teresa's ability to act like an adult may have actually backfired in previous pageants.
"She didn't win because [the judges] thought she was too mature," Miss Nebraska co-executive director Jay Engel says. "Teresa is very, very well-spoken. She's very intelligent and talented."
Now that Teresa's record-breaking pageant win has put her in the spotlight, she has a few busy weeks ahead with TV interviews and other appearances.
She will appear on The View Monday and ring the NASDAQ Stock Market bell on Tuesday. Engel says Teresa's traveling will continue for at least the next five weeks before embarking on a homecoming tour of her home state.
The Gering, Neb., native became the first Miss Nebraska to be crowned Miss America, and the youngest winner in more than 70 years.