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. (EDU ’08). Recognized for improving academic outcomes and closing achievement gaps, this Regent alum was recently appointed acting 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.” 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. 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. 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. ABOUT REGENT UNIVERSITY The School of Education, ranked among the Top 5 Best Online Graduate Education Programs in Virginia for seven consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, has over 850 alumni who have been recognized as Teachers of the Year. The school offers both online and on-campus degrees including M.Ed. (licensure and endorsement options), Ed.D., Ed.S., Ed.S. in Leadership in Mathematics Education, Ed.D., and Ph.D. in Education. Founded in 1978, Regent University has nearly 11,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from a Christian perspective in 135+ program areas including business, communication and the arts, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, and psychology. Currently, Regent University is ranked among top national universities by U.S. News & World Report and is one of only 22 universities nationally to receive an “A” rating for its comprehensive liberal arts core curriculum.