Over lunch one day, we (Ria and Kim) shared that we were both in a place in our lives that a career change was calling us. We started brainstorming. We both wanted to give back, spread a message of individual and collective potential, and work with others to envision and carry out creative solutions that positively impact our communities. And thus, iMOST was founded.
Our vision is to be a resource for individuals and groups who wish to become actively involved in the betterment of their communities large and small. With over 45 years of combined years in education, we bring experience in the field and connect it with research-based practices that engage learners in meaningful and authentic ways.
Maria (“Ria”) Kaylor, Ph.D., co-founder[Note: This bio was written by Ria’s best friend and sister, because she wouldn’t say half of these things about herself.]
Ria is passionate about her family, education, and the community. She is an animal lover, do-it-yourselfer, cook, photographer, traveler, poet, and award-winning educator and researcher. Ria challenges herself to know how things work and to build and engineer solutions, whether it be making outdoor furniture, enjoying her backyard, or remodeling her family home. She loves to cook and entertain for family and friends where attention to details matter, such as combining ingredients to create a new savory dish.
Ria received her undergraduate and Master’s degrees from The University of Texas at San Antonio in Sociology and Educational Leadership, respectively. She received her Ph.D. in the area of Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin. Ria taught in public elementary and secondary schools as a special educator. Then, she began her career in higher education working as an assistant then associate professor at The University of Texas at San Antonio for 10 years.
Ria has earned numerous honors including the 2012 UTSA President’s Distinguished Diversity Award and 2010 UT System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. She has published in professional journals and presented at national and international conferences. She also has served as principal investigator for a National Science Foundation Grant and other multi-million dollar grants.
Many of Ria’s most enjoyable career experiences have been developing and implementing creative ideas to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities. With iMOST, Ria can work with people directly in a non-authoritative, co-creative capacity to affect a multitude of social challenges.
Ria is passionate about travel and nature. One way she carries out these passions is through the lifelong journey she shares with her niece to visit every single U.S. national park.
Kim Kennedy, Ph.D., co-founder[Note: This bio was written and fact-checked by Kim’s best friend to ensure that no details were embellished.]
Kim describes herself as a life-long learner. Her best teachers have been her two daughters (ages 11 & 16), her former students (at the elementary, secondary, and university levels), and her experiences with nature and travel. She was an “Air Force brat” who moved every 3 to 4 years within and outside of the states, such as Texas, Florida, Spain, Germany, Michigan, and Georgia. Her love of travel and other cultures continue as an adult, leading her to other countries such as Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.
Kim has spent over 20 years as an educator. She is a true Texas Longhorn who holds three degrees from The University of Texas at Austin: a Bachelor’s in Applied Learning and Development (focusing on bilingual special education), a Master’s in Special Education (focusing in multicultural special education), and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (specializing in bilingual education and language & literacy). Prior to working at The University of Texas at San Antonio as an assistant then associate professor for 8 years, Kim taught in the public schools as a bilingual (Spanish/English) teacher and also as a special education teacher.
Throughout her career, she has earned numerous grants, scholarships, and fellowships including an NSEP fellowship that allowed her to study at the graduate level in Ecuador and a Fulbright Award to Peru. She has published her educational research in top-tier journals and presented at national and international research conferences.
Kim’s advocacy for others who fall outside of the ever-shrinking “mainstream” is evidenced by her work as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, and educational researcher. Now with iMOST, she would like to see her advocacy broadened to encompass an array of social, cultural, and environmental challenges by working with others to create positive change.
Kim loves to dance, hike, and play. She is a connoisseur of fine chocolate. She is passionate about people, loves to hear their stories, and shows genuine interest in others.