Middle school teacher always keeps one chair empty in classroom as an important lesson.

Dan Gill, a social studies teacher with 53 years of experience at Glenfield Middle School in Montclair, New Jersey, imparts a unique lesson on tolerance using an empty chair in his classroom. The chair holds a significant meaning, rooted in Gill’s childhood experience in the 1950s.

In 1956, when Gill was 9, he and his friend Archie were headed to a birthday party in South Bronx. However, they were met with rejection when Archie, who was Black, was turned away by the birthday boy’s mother, citing a lack of chairs. Gill saw through the pretext and understood the prejudice based on skin color, leaving both boys devastated.

Carrying the memory of that incident, Gill became a teacher and, determined to make his students understand the impact of prejudice, kept an empty chair in his classroom. This chair symbolizes the opportunity denied to Archie and represents a commitment to creating a classroom free of prejudice.

Gill’s approach goes beyond textbooks; it utilizes symbols to convey the lesson. The empty chair serves as a reminder for students to strive for academic, social, and emotional improvement while fostering a welcoming environment. Gill’s dedication has made a lasting impact on generations of students, instilling important lessons about racism.

After 53 years in education, Mr. Gill is set to retire, but his story will live on. He plans to write a book titled “No More Chairs,” sharing the story of Archie and the symbolic “empty chair” with a broader audience, ensuring the powerful lessons continue beyond his classroom.

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