Karen learned responsibility early in life. As the eldest of eight children, she naturally understood respect for others and the importance of family. Born to a graduate student at the University of Chicago and his wife, who had both graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Karen remembers how the value of knowledge and education was stressed in daily life. All eight children graduated from college, five with master’s degrees (one of these from the University of Houston and one from Rice), and one of her brothers is currently pursuing a PhD.
While Karen was still in elementary school, the family settled on 84 acres in rural upstate New York. The family raised much of what they ate and allowed neighboring dairy farmers to use a few acres to raise feed for their cows in trade for milk. From these kinds of early experiences, Karen understood that money was to be spent prudently and cautiously. Her love of the environment grew from farm life, as well as from an inspirational earth science teacher she had in high school.
Karen first ventured west to attend the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. While attending NMT, Karen met her future husband, James Felthauser. She graduated in 1976 with a BS in geology and a BS in environmental psychology. Karen has been certified to teach in New Mexico, Utah and Texas.
After graduating from NMT, Karen went to work for Ford, Bacon and Davis, an engineering firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was hired as the staff geologist and environmental specialist. She learned how important it is to preserve the environment while conducting environmental studies for them.
Karen and Jim married in 1981. They have five children, and the family legacy of recognizing the importance of education has been passed on to each of their children. Their oldest, Erik, is a UT graduate and is currently enrolled as a graduate student in neurobiology there. Jason is an engineering student at Texas Tech. Dana just entered Northern Arizona University. Alisha attends Round Rock High School. Kyle, the youngest, is a student at Deepwood Elementary.
Since becoming a mother, Karen has devoted much of her time to children’s issues. While living in Pittsfield, MA, she became a volunteer with the Federal Chapter 1 program, serving on a committee to choose a local director and devoting many hours to the program at both the preschool and elementary school levels. She has been an active member of her children’s PTAs. While in Pittsfield, she also found time to teach infant and mothers’ swimming classes at the YMCA.
Karen’s family moved to Texas in 1993. She immediately became active once again in PTAs, School Board elections and mother’s support groups. She was an assistant den mother for a Cub Scout troop. Her youngest, Kyle, was born in 1994. Soon thereafter Karen began working at Kid Space, rising to the position of assistant director. When Kyle entered elementary school in 2000, she became a substitute teacher in RRISD and then a full-time sub at Round Rock High School before the school year ended. She also became an active member of Education Round Rock, a teacher’s organization belonging to both the Texas Federation of Teachers and the Texas State Teachers Association. Serving as the organization’s Round Rock High School campus representative, Karen has worked tirelessly at resolving educational issues for teachers, administrators and students. In 2002 she became Education Round Rock’s area representative for the RRHS Learning Community.
As a TSTA representative, Karen testified before a Texas Legislative committee as a proponent for fair and equitable health insurance benefits programs for educational employees. During the legislative battle on redistricting, Karen spoke passionately about the need to focus on, and invest in, children’s education and health care rather than on partisan redistricting. She also testified in favor of a bill sponsored by Eddie Rodriguez that would create a fairer tax structure in Texas while at the same time provide for more equitable funding of educational programs.
Her passion for education and children’s issues sparked Karen’s creativity, and in 2003 she wrote, directed and acted in a one-woman, one-act play, “Just Who is Robbing Our Schools?” which was performed for her colleagues at RRISD to a highly enthusiastic response.Because of her teachers’ union involvement, Karen became increasingly involved in the legislative process. At a teachers’ union convention in June 2003, Karen learned about Howard Dean’s campaign. She was inspired by his call to all Americans to participate in our Democracy. After the very disappointing 2 years for education, health care and the toll road fiasco that was the 78th legislative session, and at the urging of Jimmy Rocha, Chair of the Williamson County Democratic Party, Karen decided to throw her hat in the ring for the 79th Legislative session.