When you meet someone powerfully operating in their purpose, something special happens: They inspire you too.
Such is the case with Sharon I. Byrdsong, Ed.D. (SOE, ’08). Recognized for improving academic outcomes and closing achievement gaps, this Regent alumna was recently appointed superintendent of schools for Norfolk Public Schools in Norfolk, Virginia.
Overseeing a school district of 30,000+ students, Byrdsong acknowledges the tremendous responsibility that’s been entrusted to her: “I take my position very seriously. I have the ability to change the trajectory of a student’s life. There’s a lot on my shoulders. Decisions I make not only impact the student, but families to come and the community at large.”
“You Can’t Do This Work Alone”
Norfolk Public Schools hired nearly 400 new teachers in 2019, and Byrdsong had the opportunity to speak to the new teachers during their orientation: “It’s important to everyone for our schools and students to thrive. When they thrive, the community thrives. … You can’t do this work alone. You have to work together as a team.”
While she is quick to redirect to the team around her and to the internal compass that guides her, Byrdsong’s visionary leadership and engaging personality make her a superstar in the field of education. She’s been honored with awards including the National Principal of the Year, Outstanding Middle School Principal of Virginia and Outstanding Alumna, to name a few. She says her zeal for education is what fuels her motivation to give her best each day.
“Overnight, I went from being an engineer to a teacher.”
A Tough Decision
Recognized as a future leader back in high school, Byrdsong originally applied and was accepted to the engineering program at North Carolina State University. Her calculus teacher, however, encouraged her to explore teaching and nudged her to fill out a teaching scholarship application. The same day she returned from NC State’s engineering orientation, she received a letter from the North Carolina General Assembly notifying her that she had been selected for a teaching scholarship.
“My parents were like, ‘Sharon this is going to be a tough decision.’ They wanted me to do what I was most passionate about. From that point on, I was led to pursue teaching. It had to be God — it had to be Him guiding me. Overnight, I went from being an engineer to a teacher,” explains Byrdsong.
Called to Lead
She has been impressing those in her reach for decades with her strategic insight and inspirational charisma. “I am very results-driven. I like to get things done,” she admits. “I believe God called me to lead and make a difference.”
It was that belief that led her to Regent University’s School of Education and Doctor of Education program, an experience for which she is grateful.
“If I had to do it over again, I would return to Regent. The university infuses a philosophy of Christian leadership into every aspect of the curriculum and instruction,” she explains. “I felt confident that when I finished my Ed.D. program, I would experience a higher level of success.”
The icing on the higher-education cake for her? “Regent’s professors challenged me to have deep conversations on how I could shape the world.” Now, she is advancing with a profound opportunity to make a difference that extends into her city, region, and well beyond.