Robert Aldrich leaves classroom behind to embrace his own art

AldrichDoneHe holds a dry-erase marker to the whiteboard and maps out the last 30 years of his life.

Scribbling numbers, he realizes that his “statistics” are remarkable.

Twenty-eight years in leadership and being the department chair of art.

Thirty years walking in the graduations and doing the artwork for each one.

Thirty years teaching here, and he’s been in the same room since day one.

Robert Aldrich is packing up his art supplies and leaving after this year in order to pursue his passion for creating. He recalled on the time in which he created several paintings for the Spanos family, and wants to continue to paint. He constantly encourages students to sell their artwork in their free time, even if they do not take on a career in art.

Retiring this year, he will move to Santa Cruz, where he grew up and continue to create.

“I wanted to do my own art,” he said. “I’m so busy taking care of everybody else’s creative needs that I’ve put my own creative needs on hold. I’ve been too busy to create freely.”

His teaching does not stop at just the high school level. He ran the art program at the Mary Graham Children’s Center for seven years. Working with students who were physically abused or neglected in other ways, Aldrich put his own needs aside as he helped soothe their minds with art.

He views his teaching position as more than sitting in his classroom five days a week.

Whenever someone (in his class or not) asks him for a card, poster, banner or any other piece of art, he offers his services. He believes that many of the students come from broken homes, without enough money to buy a card.

“I take care of not only the visual needs of the students but of the faculty as well,” he said. “I did big banners for WASC and any time someone is sick, I do get-well cards. Anytime there is a birthday, anniversary, holiday, you can find me doing cards.”

Taking a second to count on his fingers, he said, “I did 27 will-you-go-to-prom-with-me signs (this year).”
For senior Cheyenne Brinton, Aldrich was a role model figure.

She is sad to see him go because “he won’t be able to pass on his art techniques to other students.”
Reflecting on his teaching, she said he’s more than just a teacher.

“He showed me companionship, and I knew that he cared about my life in and out of school,” she said. “I’ll miss all of his stories and life lessons. The fact that he pushes me to go to art school and reach my full potential makes me care for him. Because of him I’m thinking about (going).”

Though caring and willing to lend a hand to his students, he admits that sometimes the pressure gets to him and he has to respectfully decline their wants, even though this rarely happens.

“I like doing that for the kids,” he said. “But there’s a saturation point. You help everyone and do as much as you can but it’s like a sponge and sometimes you can only take so much, only help so much.”

However, the 68-year-old didn’t let the stress affect his teaching and was awarded with Art Educator of the Year in Stockton in 2010.

This feat, he believes, is the sole purpose of his career — to be a great educator for his students.
“I’d like to think that’s why I got into education,” he said. “I wanted to make an impact. I look at you guys as the future. I’d like to think that I’ve had something to do with it.”