Montclair teacher Dan Gill has taught at Glenfield Middle School for more than half a century. His retirement will be celebrated with a ceremony and reception on Saturday, June 17, from 1 to 3:30 pm at Glenfield (25 Maple Avenue) Click here to RSVP. You can leave a special video message here.

Known for his ability to bring civics and American democracy to life, Gill’s 53-year teaching career spans 10 U.S. presidents.

“Dan Gill is a Montclair icon and treasure for this community,” said Montclair Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds. “He is the kind of teacher students remember for the rest of their lives. In addition to helping integrate the district, he is a great champion of the values – like diversity, academic excellence, public engagement, and community spirit – that make Montclair special. He may be retiring, but I hope and expect he will continue to contribute to a town he has served so well.”

Gill began teaching in Montclair in 1970. He wrote a book on the history of Glenfield School with his students in 2004, and served on the committee organizing Glenfield’s 125th Anniversary celebration. His honors include the Robert Merrill Scholar Award from Cornell University, the Euphemia Lofton Haynes Award from the Montclair NAACP and two Weston Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Gill, 76, worked on the magnet plan that integrated Montclair’s schools in the 1970s after busing desegregation failed; it became a national model. He also helped the school develop its popular “House” system, which allows students to stay with the same group of core teachers throughout middle school.

In addition to receiving many awards as an educator, Gill received national media coverage for his tradition of always keeping an empty chair in his classroom – a symbol that there is room for everyone and a reminder of a time in Gill’s own childhood when a Black friend wasn’t allowed to come with him to attend a white classmate’s birthday party because, the mother said, “there weren’t enough chairs.”

Dan Gill (Courtesy Dan Gill)
Dan Gill (Courtesy Dan Gill)

The story of keeping an empty chair in his classroom ultimately resulted in a book deal for Gill to write “No More Chairs.”

Gill was selected as grand marshal of the town’s Caravan of Heroes parade in 2020 (it took place in 2021 due to COVID) and gave Montclair High School’s commencement address in 2022.

“All of you have a story,” he told the graduating class, whose last two years of school coincided with the COVID pandemic. “Share it.”

Alison Silverstein, president of the Montclair Board of Education, said: “The stories of the lives that Mr. Gill has positively impacted are countless. The Board is forever thankful for everything that Mr. Gill has done for the students and families of Montclair. We are grateful for his many years of service and wish him all the best on his retirement.”

Latifah Jannah, past president of the Montclair Board of Education, said: “Thank You, Dan, for your many, many years of public service and educational enrichment to the Montclair School District and the families and students whose lives you touched. Glenfield was my first Montclair Public Schools job assignment. You were welcoming and reassuring to the newbie, and I will never forget that. You are appreciated. Congratulations on your retirement.”

Tessie Thomas, president of the Montclair PTA Council, whose son was part of House Gill, said: “Mr. Gill is an amazing educator and an even more amazing human being. His stellar career in education has been truly transformative for the Montclair Public Schools and for the lives of so many. I know he will be missed dearly in the class, but knowing him his contributions to the community will keep coming.”

Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, executive director of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE), said: “Mr. Gill is one of those rare teachers who can meet all children where they are at. He has been toasted more than any other teacher in MFEE history and that speaks volumes about how beloved he is by students and families. His lifetime commitment to Montclair kids has changed countless lives. We look forward to continuing to tap into his wisdom to inform MFEE programming for students and staff.”

Cathy Kondreck, president of the Montclair Education Association, said: “Dan Gill has inspired countless students to reach their full potential, to explore new ideas, to challenge themselves, and to make a positive difference in the world. Mr. Gill has also mentored and guided generations of colleagues, sharing his expertise, wisdom, and kindness with all who have had the honor of working alongside him. He has touched the lives of countless others in the community with his time, compassion and energy to make a difference in their lives. In short, he has been a shining example of what it means to be an extraordinary teacher, and after 50 years of dedication, a legend.”

RSVP here.