Why a New Jersey teacher has kept an empty chair in his classroom for 52 years

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ByToni Yates via WABC logo
Saturday, May 21, 2022
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It only takes five minutes to hear how loved and respected Mr. Gill is at Glenfield Middle School.

MONTCLAIR, New Jersey (WABC) -- It only takes five minutes to hear how loved and respected Mr. Daniel Gill is at Glenfield Middle School.

Gill has been teaching generations of Montclair students - he has 52 years under his belt.

"Who can say that - 'I've been in the building 52 years!'" said Principal Erika Pierce.

"Kids are great - I love kids. They're honest, forgiving, they don't hold grudges," said Gill.

Gill will leave in June 2023 - he has one more year to go because he refuses to break the three-year commitment he made to the kids who came to him in the sixth grade.

He promised to be with them through their eighth-grade year.

"I would feel like I let them down," said Gill.

Chances are - he has never done that.

Gill will be busy when he leaves. He is writing a book called 'No More Chairs.'

The name comes from bias he saw at 9 years old when he and his Black friend, Archie, went to a birthday party, and the mother turned Archie away, saying there were no more chairs.

"And she said it again, 'you can come in, Archie can't,' - my friend was humiliated," Gill said.

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It stayed with Mr. Gill, and helps shape how he teaches, nurtures and leads. He has kept an empty chair in his class and his students understand.

"It's a symbol to show kids there is room for everyone - there's always a chair," Gill adds.

So give him until next June - a moment to relax, take a break, be lauded - and then he will begin his new chapter in life about the lesson in bias that helped make him the man, father, grandfather teacher and mentor that he is.

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