After having graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Anthropology and a Teaching Certification, Karen, in the middle of her master's degree in Anthropology decided that she wanted real life experience with Native people. She applied to the departments of Indian Affairs in both the US and Canada and was very quickly contacted by Canadian Indian Affairs to teach for six months in a Catholic residential school in Lower Post, British Columbia, about 20 miles below the Yukon border. The following year (1965), she was hired to be the teacher of the village school teaching all Native children in grades kindergarten - 8. This was the last log cabin school in B.C. and her teacherage was an annex to the school.
The following year she was transferred to Cassiar, a mining town in northern B.C. There she taught the primary grades to both White and Native children.
In 1966, she became the first teacher at a new school that was to be built in Pelly Crossing, Yukon. All of her students were Native students, most of whom did not speak English. There was a trapping/hunting culture using dog teams only. She had the only vehicle in the village.
In 1967, she made the very difficult decision to leave Pelly Crossing to marry her fiance whom she had met in Cassiar.
For the next three years, she taught in Cassiar and in 1968 wrote the book "Johnny Joe" for her Native students, who had difficulty using the readers provided by the school.
In 1969, she and her husband made the decision to return to university and chose the University of Alaska because they wanted to stay in the north and also because the U of A had a reputation of having the best educational program for teaching Native children. In 1970, she received her Master's of Arts in Teaching and in the same year, obtained a teaching position at the Two Rivers School, a rural school about 30 miles from Fairbanks. This was a one room school and she taught grades 1-4. Having had success in her first year, the School Board decided to add another room and appointed Karen Head Teacher. Then, with another successful year, they decided to add another room. That year, 1973, Karen was awarded Teacher of the Year for Fairbanks as well as Teacher of the Year for the State of Alaska.
In 1973, she returned to Cassiar, where her husband obtained employment and she became a reading specialist helping the teachers in the Stikine School District to teach Native children. There she continued her quest to get better educational material for Native children, and obtained a small grant from the B.C. Teacher's Federation to write a book for Native children. The result was "Sun, Moon and Owl", published in 1975. This book was the most popular book requested by teachers and was republished 14 times.
In 1976, she obtained permission to take a year's leave of absence to write a book for the Tahltan people that could be used in the school curriculum. She, with the help of many Native people drove around the Telegraph Creek area to record the stories of the Elders and obtain photographs to show their culture. The result was Tahltan Native Studies.
In 1977, she and her husband moved to the Calgary area where she became a program specialist for the Rockyview School District. In 1984, she wrote "Language Experiences with Children's Stories" and "Once Upon a Time". Both books became required texts for graduate teaching students at the University of Calgary.
In 1988, she became principal of the Exshaw School in Exshaw, Alberta, which taught grades 1-9. Seventy-five percent of the students came from the nearby Stoney Reserve.
After suffering from some health problems, she retired in 1989. She continues to live in the area with her husband on a ranch located in the Foothills of the Rockies.