ENCINITAS — Second-grade teacher Danner Jantzer seeks to spread love and understanding in the classroom and beyond with her new children’s book that addresses the negative impacts of racial slurs and why they shouldn’t be used.
After working on the book for several months, Jantzer received the first copies of her self-published book, “Spread Love Not Hate: Why We Do Not Say the ‘N’ Word,” in December.
Jantzer first got the idea for the book after two students at Paul Ecke-Central Elementary School were overheard using the N-word last February. This was the first time Jantzer had encountered students using a racial slur in her 20 years of teaching in the Encinitas Union School District.
“I had such a visceral reaction – I was shaking, almost in tears,” she said. “I had to collect myself and take some deep breaths before going out to talk to the boys.”
When she spoke with the students about the incident, Jantzer explained how the N-word made her feel as a Black woman.
“Once they realized I was hurt, they were immediately remorseful,” Jantzer said.
After talking to them, she realized these young students had no contextual understanding of the N-word other than hearing it from older kids outside of school.
During her class meeting, Jantzer took the time to explain to all of her students why that word shouldn’t be used. Then, later that day, she approached Principal Wesley Sechrest about what had happened. Sechrest, too, was shocked and planned to speak to the boys but also asked how he could further assist Jantzer.
Sechrest agreed when she suggested establishing more resources for teachers to address these situations compassionately.
“I appreciated his reaction because it made me feel seen, heard and validated,” Jantzer said.
Not long after, Jantzer and fellow second-grade teacher Brooke Klein researched potential children’s books to introduce to the classroom that could help address the N-word, but they didn’t find much beyond some books for adults.
After a sleepless night of thinking about what she could do to help, the book’s idea began to form. Within the week, she had a rough draft of the story.
Jantzer received positive feedback about her book from the district and fellow teachers.
“It’s so exciting to be met with such encouragement because this is a topic that needs to be out there,” she said. “Instead of trying to skirt away or hide it, we can have dialogue and talk about it and understand it, because that’s how true enlightenment and understanding as well as compassion come into play.”
The book recounts what happened with Jantzer’s students last year (using different names) and includes discussion questions tailored for elementary-aged kids.
The book also helps address challenging questions, like why the word is still used and provides easy examples for children to understand.
In the summer, Jantzer recruited her son, Maddox, a senior at San Dieguito Academy High School, to help design the book’s artwork.
While she doesn’t use the word at all, Jantzer said the N-word, historically used to denigrate and dehumanize Black people, has been reclaimed by some as a sign of brotherhood against oppression. Once someone who isn’t Black says the N-word, Jantzer says it immediately reverts to its harmful original meaning.
Both Jantzer and Klein said the book is helpful for teachers and parents of all races and ethnicities who are unsure how to address the subject.
“The demographics of teachers in this country are predominantly White,” Klein said. “I think this subject is one that most White people are very uncomfortable with, so this could be a really valuable tool to help guide the discussion.”
Jantzer and Klein will both use the book in their classrooms.
With “Spread Love Not Hate,” Jantzer hopes to change the world, even if it’s just one child at a time.
“Change starts with children,” she said. “Even if one kid takes it in and passes it on, that puts more light into this world.”
The book is available for purchase on Amazon.