Leadership Spotlight: Jody Sharp

The Ori Learning Leadership Spotlight Series is dedicated to showcasing outstanding educational leaders who are making a positive impact in their respective districts and the education world.

Introduction

Jody Sharp currently serves as a Program Specialist for Antelope Valley Union High School District (AVUHSD) in California.

A child of educators, Jody began her career with AVUHSD when the youngest of her five children entered kindergarten. Initially, she served as a Special Day Class (SDC)-Academic Social Science teacher before accepting the position of Teacher on Special Assignment. After four years overseeing IEP implementation and compliance at one of the district’s campuses, she accepted her current role. When not supporting students, she enjoys spending every spare moment with her four beautiful grandchildren.

How did you become an educational leader?

My path involved formal education, where I engaged in relevant academic programs to deepen my understanding of educational theories, practices, and leadership principles. In addition, I actively sought practical experiences within educational settings, assuming roles that allowed me to apply my knowledge to real-world challenges.

Throughout my career, I prioritized continuous learning, adapted to the changing educational paradigms, and embraced new and innovative approaches within my field. 

I cultivated strong interpersonal and communication skills, recognizing the importance of collaboration and effective engagement with staff and students.

What's a lesson about leadership that you've learned or been reminded of recently?

I recognize the significance of mentorship and collaboration as an educational leader. Being a mentor and engaging with mentors, peers, and educational communities are extremely valuable.

What's one book that has had a profound impact on you as a leader? Why?

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. The idea that success is not just about talent but also about sustained passion and perseverance has had an impact on my leadership. By integrating the principles of grit into my leadership approach, I try to contribute to creating a resilient, motivated, and successful educational community. Angela Duckworth’s insights offer valuable guidance for leaders seeking to instill a mindset of perseverance and passion within their schools.

So far in your career, what have you found most challenging as a leader?

Maintaining high morale among teachers and staff is essential for a positive learning environment. For the past few years, dealing with issues such as burnout, job dissatisfaction, and conflicts has become a major challenge.

Of all the challenges the educational world faces today, what is one area you are most passionate about and would like to make an impact in?

As an educational leader within the Special Education department, creating inclusive learning environments that cater to diverse learning needs, including those of students with disabilities or different

learning styles, remains a challenge. Inclusive education requires addressing physical, social, and academic barriers and is the area I am most passionate about and where I want to make an impact.

What are you most proud of during your time as a leader?

Successfully leading a team of dedicated Special Education professionals, General Educators, Service Providers, and Support Staff to support student needs is something that I continually strive for.

Collaboration is essential when addressing the diverse needs of students with disabilities, and achieving a cohesive team dynamic is something I am proud of.

Finally, if you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

My advice to young leaders is to cultivate positive relationships with teachers, support staff, parents, and the broader school community. Open communication and collaboration are key to a successful Special Education program.

For more articles in the Leadership Spotlight series, you can read our interview with Dr. Gwen Coffey. We discuss the role of mentorship in her journey to becoming an educational leader, the power of pivoting when faced with challenges, and the importance of educational equity.

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Stefan Kalpachev