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Meet Catharine Danenhower

Winner of the 2016 Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship Award

Early last fall, NAEYC student member Catharine Danenhower discovered a scholarship opportunity just as she was gearing up for her last year of study at Northern Arizona University’s extended campus in Scottsdale. Encouraged by her mentor teacher, she decided to apply for the Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship Award. 

When Catharine heard the news from AzAEYC VP of Professional Development Eric Bucher that she won the scholarship, she was both pleased —and relieved. “These funds will be extremely beneficial to me in covering expenses during my last semester before graduation,” she said.

At the time, Catharine was not sure at what school she would be student teaching, which age group, or where she would ultimately begin her career after graduation.

Eric, who coordinates the scholarship award process for AzAEYC, caught up with Catharine for an update.


ERIC: Talk about why you were drawn to the early childhood profession.

CATHARINE: In 2011, I became a full time nanny to four young children and I quickly became extremely interested in their education. I found myself taking advantage of every little teachable moment. I encouraged them to be independent and self-sufficient learners. That ultimately lead me to make the decision to go into the field of education.

ERIC: You received your bachelors in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood endorsement after your student teaching semester from NAU. Congratulations! Where did you decide to teach?

CATHARINE: Thanks! I was hired to begin teaching at charter school in South Scottsdale  — Noah Webster, Pima location. It’s a Title One school and where I did my student teaching. I have an amazing class, the support is fantastic — and being a first year teacher, you need that! Right now, I feel like I’m in a good place.

Career decisions

ERIC: What led you to decide to start your career there?

CATHARINE: I was intrigued about charter schools. I went to a job fair interview at NAU and talked to Noah Webster’s principal and the assistant principal. I loved them right off the bat, they were so passionate. They both have been involved with the school for over 15 years, so I felt it was well-established.

ERIC: Did you always intend to teach 3rd grade?

CATHARINE: Absolutely not. I wasn’t set on any particular age. I student taught in the first grade, but I was willing to get out of my comfort zone and go where ever the school needed me. Third grade is a critical year, so I’m nervous about that, but this is the age group that I am clicking with right now.

ERIC: You have continued your membership in NAEYC. What are some of the benefits (besides the scholarship opportunity) that you’ve found?

CATHARINE: Staying up to date with anything going on in the field in Arizona. Also, I receive daily emails about the new forum, “Hello!” — so I can check for information easily from other teachers discussing topics I am interested in. It has been very helpful and easy to access.

Applying for the scholarship

ERIC: When you look back on last year, when you applied for the scholarship, what comes to mind?

CATHARINE: I loved the process. My mentor teacher at the time threw the info out there and told all our class members to apply. Then, when my mentor teacher wrote some amazing things about me, and said I was doing a good job in the field — it just reinforced what I had come to know. Early education is where I am supposed to be.

ERIC: And the award came in handy?

CATHERINE: I saved the money until I went in to student teaching, since you don’t get paid and can’t hold another job. I used it for living expenses. It was there in case of an emergency. It helped me tremendously and I’m so grateful.

ERIC: What would you say to anyone who is thinking of applying for this year’s award?

CATHARINE: It is worthwhile process and will be an enormous help. Especially since the award has doubled to the amount of $1,000! The award looks amazing on a resume. Employers like to see that kind of recognition.

Note: Catharine hopes to continue studies in educational leadership at the graduate level. In her free time, she loves hanging out with friends and family, trying new restaurants, hiking, traveling, and playing with her dog, Stella.

The Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship awards $1,000 to one student attending an accredited Arizona public university or college and majoring in early childhood education (or a closely related field) with an interest in quality early childhood, early childhood public policy, and advocacy efforts on behalf of young children and families. Applications are now being accepted for 2017. Deadline is September 17, 2017. Learn more.