Former Liberty HS teacher returns to inspire his students
A former teacher turned motivational speaker returned to the Liberty ISD auditorium on Tuesday morning, May 7, to share his story and inspire his former students to a life of service and fulfillment.
Justin Aldridge walked onto the campus of Liberty High School in his first year of teaching and was later voted as Teacher of the Year by his colleagues. Even with those accolades, he felt out of place and didn’t believe he was fulfilling his destiny. On Tuesday he told his story to his former classmates and drew praise from administrators for his candid talk.
Aldridge grew up in the older part of Pasadena, the youngest of five children with to two high school dropouts.
“We struggled mightily growing up and didn’t really have much. We didn’t know from day-to-day where the food was going to come from, and we had few clothes to cover our backs,” he said.
Aldridge told how in the 1980s, the area apartments in the rundown part of Pasadena offered the first 30 days free if you signed a lease with them.
“We would stay 29 days, pack up and move on to the next one,” he said. There was no continuity in his life and no positive influence.
Life continued that way, but also took a dark turn when he was introduced to drugs and alcohol at a young age.
“I witnessed a lot of violence, and saw murders, just a really tragic story with my childhood,” he said.
But deep inside, Aldridge said he always felt different than the others with his internal desires and a sense of purpose. It would be what catapulted him to become more successful than his wildest dreams.
It all came to a head when his dad was arrested and hauled off to jail and ultimately prison in front of his own eyes at the age of 16.
“I heard several loud knocks at the door. When I opened it, there were several cops standing at the door asking if my dad was home,” he said as he told the story to the 300-plus high school students gathered in the school district auditorium.
He remembered going to his mom and dad’s bedroom to get him and when he told his dad the police were at the door, his father bolted into the nearby closet and told him to tell them he wasn’t home.
His wife yelled at him.
“Johnny, no! We can’t do this anymore. It has to stop!” she yelled at him in frustration.
Aldridge stood there stunned not knowing anything about his father being in trouble.
He turned to walk out of the room and down the hallway when the cops entered the home knocking him down as they rushed past him.
“I’m laying on the floor as they cross over me and watch them drag my dad out of the closet, throw him down on the bed, I lost it,” he said.
He ran out of the apartment and into the parking lot and sat on the street curb and burst into tears.
He hears noise behind him and when he turns, he sees his father being led out with his hands behind his back being escorted by a cadre of police. He was followed by his wife who saw Justin sitting on the curb. She joins him and puts his arm around him, explaining what was happening.
“Your dad made some bad decisions,” she tried to comfort him.
His father ultimately went to prison and served seven years.
The experience changed Aldridge’s life.
“I realized I was powerless. I couldn’t do anything to help him and I realized I had no self-esteem and no confidence,” he said.
Despite his athletic prowess on the gridiron and his academic accomplishments in the classroom, the youngster still felt like he didn’t have the ingredients to be successful.
“Those events helped me flip the switch and get me to where I am today,” he said.
Justin Aldridge accepted a scholarship to the University of Texas where he played wide receiver on the football team and graduated with a degree.
He spent five years in education.
“I loved the kids, but I didn’t love teaching content and curriculum,” he laughed.
He ended up leaving the profession to pursue his passion as a motivational speaker. He wanted to share his story with others, but more than anything, help others reach their potential as well.
“As much as I love my dad, I’m not like my dad and I didn’t want my life to be like his. I knew my belief system and the way that I was holding myself back, nothing was going to change until I made a conscious decision to change,” he said.
Aldridge said he quit letting the victim story play in his head, he approached life differently with an attitude of gratitude, and he surrounded himself with people who would help pull him out of his position in life.
His trajectory in life changed and in 2018, with a gentle nudge from his wife, pulled the plug on his teaching career to do more speaking engagements.
“She said I had helped her build her dream the last eight years and it was time for me to pursue mine,” he said.
He has written a book about his life, just recently released, and it is only the beginning for Aldridge.
He’s not a life coach, he thinks that has a negative connotation to it.
“I’m a breakthrough coach. I take people, just like me, who were shackled to their past or reality and help them release them into their future,” he said.
Aldridge admits he’s a man of God.
“I became a Christian when I was 28 years old. I didn’t grow up in the church but it’s definitely a big part of my transformation,” he said.
A book tour is being scheduled that includes colleges all the way down to elementary schools.
“I don’t just speak on personal development but leadership as well,” he said.
The former teacher was swarmed by his former students following his presentation. He says he will continue down the path he believes is his destiny and do his best to help others.
For bookings or to purchase a copy of his book, “Leading with Love,” visit his website at https://jsaleadership.com/book/