At the end of every school year, the Appoquinimink School District holds an art exhibit highlighting the work that students have been doing all year. Middletown High School students will contribute close to 60 of those pieces.

Starting each September, Appoquinimink School District art students pour their hearts out onto the page, or into the kiln, with teachers guiding their hands and keeping a watchful eye for the most imaginative pieces that can be included in the district-wide art show that takes place near the conclusion of the school year.

This year's art show, which takes place this Saturday at the Marion Proffitt Training Center in Odessa, will feature more than 500 pieces of art, from every school and every grade level, including the artwork of Middletown High School art students, who will have around 60 pieces to exhibit.

The MHS contributions were chosen by the school's two art instructors, Brian Miller and Jayne Riblett, who have more than 50 years of teaching experience between them.

"We start collecting the work as soon as school starts because we don't always see students both semesters," said Miller. "The work we look for comes from every skill level and every kind of talent, allowing us to include as many students as possible."

For some students, inclusion in the exhibit serves as motivation to rev up their creative juices. At least, that's how senior Emily Uche sees it.

"Being in the exhibit motivates me a lot," said Uche. "My work has been chosen three other years so it was important to me to be a part of it for my senior year."

Riblett agreed, adding that she has watched Uche persevere this year with her projects.

"Her first sculpture blew up but she knew she wanted to do something for the exhibit so I saw that motivation she talks about firsthand," said Riblett. "She started over, pushed through and came out on the other side with a piece that I think she's proud of. And, she should be."

Sophomore Bry Thompson, a lover of impressionists like Monet and Van Gogh, agreed with classmate Uche and said that she too found the exhibit to be a form of motivation. Riblett describes Thompson as an "art room rat," often finding the future graphic designer working on projects during free periods. The extra time paid off, too. One of Thompson's pieces, "The Tiger" was chosen as the artwork for the formal invitation sent out to students' homes. She will also have two self-portraits in the exhibit.

"I was so excited when I found out I was going to be on the invitation," said Thompson. "I remember seeing the invitation before and thinking how cool it would be to have my work recognized like that. It's so exciting to think that other kids might see my work now and be thinking the same thing."

Both girls lit up when talking about their art work but the light shone through their instructors as well as both broadly beamed while the girls chatted about what art class means to them both.

"It's so rewarding to watch the students progress and get better and better with each class," said Miller. "They work so hard and the end-of-year exhibit gives us all a chance to acknowledge some of that hard work."

Riblett agreed, adding that she wants to burst whenever she hears a student say "I never thought I could do this."

Even more rewarding for the teachers is the relationships built over paint brushes and canvases.

"We get to know our students in a different way than other teachers," said Riblett. "Using art as the universal language, they're pouring their hearts out. They don't have to say a word. I can see what they are trying to say."

As Thompson nodded her agreement, Uche chimed in that the art room feels like home.

"I'm so happy and comfortable in this room," said Uche. "This is like my own world in here. I love art and I hope that people see that about me when they see my pieces."

Lots of parents, friends and families will shuffle through the exhibit on Saturday but the public is welcome to peruse the efforts of the local children as well. There is no cost to attend the exhibit, and light refreshments will be served.