WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - Standing outside her classroom following another nerve-wracking yet successful Student Showcase Night at Wheeler Middle School, art instructor Jennifer Wada-Goode finally had a chance to relax.

The moment didn't last very long. Soon after snapping a picture of a couple of friends, the sixth-year teacher at Wheeler took a deep breath and immediately began making mental notes for 2010.

"I'm already looking forward to next year again," admitted Wada-Goode, whose voice revealed more excitement in it than fatigue. "(Showcase Night) has a way of increasing school spirit and uniting everybody - the teachers with the kids, and the kids with other students who they might not have been friends with before.

"It really brings everyone together."

The fourth annual event literally brought several hundred people to the school, May 14, and was the culmination of two months worth of careful planning between school administrators, teachers and students.

Featuring car races in D Building, an art exhibit and technology presentation in the library, and a first-time drama presentation, Showcase Night allowed middle school students the opportunity to put their artistic talents on display before peers and parents.
"I get excited when our students take pride in what they do at school," Wada-Goode said.
Or as Principal Brenda Vierra-Chun put it, "We want to promote some of the good things our kids are doing and give them a chance to shine."

Shining moments included performances by members of the school's ukulele and singing enrichment class.

Five ukulele players, led on guitar by seventh grade English and Social Studies teacher Jared Wells, accompanied by vocalists China Duncanson and Jackie Morton, entertained the crowd with a rendition of the Boys Like Girls' hit, "Thunder."

Capping off the evening was the ever-popular fashion show featuring a bevy of students, teachers and administrators, including Vierra-Chun, primped up in self-styled outfits strutting down the auditorium's ramp amid raucous applause.

"This is what middle school is all about," Vierra-Chun said. "Our students are such drama kings and queens. This event gives them a chance to channel that (energy) while on stage - and to do it all in an appropriate way."

While many students used the stage as their platform, others showcased their talents at the school's art exhibit, held inside the library.

Student Xstazjha Hicks, 13, designed her own newsletter in computer technology class and in the process discovered she could reveal the things she's most definitely passionate about. They include, but are not limited to, ice cream, fried chicken, cheeseburgers and, yes, mathematics.

"Math's concrete," explained the eighth grader. "I learn it really fast."

Sixth grader Ryan Parker was one of many students who took delight in explaining artwork to others. Among Parker's contributions to the exhibit were a colorful radial design and a monochromatic piece of scratch art, which featured a detailed iguana slowly making tracks through a desert.

The youngster said he based his chalky scratch art on his 1-year-old pet chameleon, Zippy - minus the exotic lizard's three horns, of course.

Parker's father, Maj. Mark Parker, Special Troops Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, said he's proud of the way his son poured his heart into the art projects.

"Looks like he put a lot of time into them, versus just rushing through them," commented the elder Parker. "Obviously, it shows that he enjoys the arts."

Could a career as an artist be in the cards for the youngster'

Ryan simply smiled and shook his head.

"It's more of a hobby for me," he clarified. "I want to be an Army engineer."