Suleyka Scribner’s calendar is packed. From CrossFit in the pre-dawn hours to community events after work, this dual language/ESL instructional coach, mom of four and wife of Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent Scribner is always on the go. So if she squeezed something else into her schedule, it’s probably some well-deserved time to relax, right? Not exactly.
“I have not given up on my goal of being a bilingual speech pathologist,” Scribner says, explaining that she is now taking classes at the University of North Texas in preparation for the next chapter of her career. It’s the start of another whirlwind year for Scribner, but we caught up with her between work appointments for a candid conversation on parenting, strong relationships and maintaining individuality while embracing marriage and motherhood.
Fort Worth ISD hired your husband in fall 2015, but you and the kids didn’t come to Texas until the next summer. What was it like maintaining a long-distance relationship? We decided the middle of the school year wasn’t a good time to transition our children or for me to leave the classroom, so we waited until May. It was difficult, but we worked it out to where we could be with each other every other weekend. We racked up a lot of miles, a lot of airline miles. There were a lot of events and he wanted me to join him and also kind of take in the culture of Fort Worth that’s so unique and wonderful.
Before you began working as an instructional coach for Castleberry ISD, you took a few years away from the workforce. What drove the decision to step away from your job? We had to just transition. We knew that in order for our family to run smoothly we had to really take a lot of time with the organizational part. We had to put all of our systems in place, getting our bearings straight to figure out, who can we call for this? Who will support us on that? We knew it was important. There were so many changes. It was a new family—new blended family—in a new place for all of us. So we just needed that structure and the stability.
You mention your newly blended family. You and Dr. Scribner got married just over three years ago and now have four children: the older two from your husband’s first marriage and the younger two from your first marriage. Tell us about that dynamic. There is a lot of learning and there is a lot of loving and there is a lot of patience involved in it. We just feel very blessed to have these four children that we can love and support, and at the same time we are learning, we’re growing, we’re making mistakes, we’re learning from them. Our children are in very distinct times in their lives. Our oldest graduated recently from college, so he’s transitioning to the real world. Our daughter just started at the University of Arizona. We have a high school son and one here in Fort Worth who’s in sixth grade. So, we’re kind of coaching some and consulting for the other two. Like I said, it’s a process and we’re continuously growing.
How do you keep connected as a family when you’re all very busy? We try to have many dinners, as many as we can during the week. Having that time where we just unplug from everything and eat together is so important to us because we don’t always have it. There are nights that I do have to hurry home and change and go and be with my husband at a social event or something else.
What about one-on-one time with your husband? Do you have a regular date night? Well, I wouldn’t call it a date night, but we do really love working out together in the morning. It’s one of those things that we look forward to. I grab the towels, he gets the waters, and we’re off to working out in the gym and then we’re able to chat on the way home. And we definitely carve out some alone time at least once a weekend. My mom and dad just moved here from Arizona, so now they’re able to take our son to movies or for an overnight. And my husband’s family lives in Dallas. During very busy months, I’ll maybe travel to a weekend conference with my husband where we can try to find some time to go explore a new city together.
We’ve seen your Twitter and Instagram and can tell how strong your relationship is! I think that we work—it’s not hard work for us, but we are very mindful of just being a good couple, being very supportive of each other. We always talk about that it’s the little things that matter and keep our relationship going.
Do you ever feel like people know you only as “Mrs. Scribner, the superintendent’s wife”? I think that, yeah, it’s hard to be completely separate from my husband. And he and I possess so many of the same qualities and we’re such a unit. We’re mutually proud of each other, and it’s never like a negative thing. I don’t see it as a negative for someone to say, “Oh, you’re Dr. Scribner’s wife.” Actually, I’m very proud to be his wife.
But I think as people get to know me and see how I work and the more involved that I get, they see me as an individual. Going back to work has definitely helped, especially in a district that is not my husband’s district. And having adult time with colleagues, sharing ideas, and continuing to grow in my field make me a better mom.
Tell us about going back to school. So, because I took my courses so long ago and it’s a science-based field, I’m taking leveling courses so that I can continue and hopefully go to grad school to be a bilingual speech pathologist. I’m passionate about communication and language learning, and just being an advocate, especially for bilingual students and their families.
In our January issue, we talk about how to help your child become bilingual. Why is that a crucial skill? Bilingualism is not just about learning another language. Scientifically it broadens your mental development, your thought patterns are different, and you just have this world perspective. We are working with Santino, our 11-year-old, on speaking Spanish. He is now asking us to speak to him only in Spanish. I’m not really sure if it’s because he really understands the importance of speaking it or if he just wants to know what Dad and I are saying about him. (Laughs.)
How does your faith influence how you parent? Well, it’s the manual. It’s like our life manual for everything. I think in the world that we live in right now, faith is so important. It just offers [our children] hope. So, when I’m lost for words for whatever it might be, I tend to go back to the Bible and see what words of hope that I can breathe into my children. My parents planted that seed in me. Life can throw you curveballs, and you have to pivot so many times, but the one thing that I always went back to was my faith. So we want our children to have the same.
Last question. What’s your ideal day off like? Well, I would definitely continue to wake up early. I love to have time to spend in my devotional time, just to nourish my soul. I would continue to do my morning workout. It’s so good to get your body up and moving. And we’d probably have a nice, easy breakfast. I love to cook. Then we would probably go out and do something fun. We all like to golf. I’m not very good at it. I just started, but I love it, and so does our youngest son. After a day out, do a board game night, or watch a romantic comedy—my husband’s favorite. Just don’t tell him I told you!
Having It All
Hails from Douglas, Arizona (pop. 15,000)
Moved here from Phoenix
Lives in Fort Worth
Significant other Husband Kent, superintendent of Fort Worth Independent School District
How they met Mutual friend
Where they tied the knot Fort Worth’s River Ranch Stockyards in 2016
Kids Julián, 22, Jacqueline, 20, Giovanni, 14, and Santino, 11
Career Dual language/ESL instructional coach in Castleberry ISD
Alma mater Northern Arizona University for education and speech pathology
Back to school Taking classes at the University of North Texas with goal of becoming a bilingual speech pathologist
Three things in her bag Planner, fashion repair kit, sunglasses
New Year’s Resolution Take salsa-dancing lessons. “We plan on taking a trip to Puerto Rico at the end of the year. There will be lots of salsa dancing and I want to be ready!”
Image courtesy of Nick Prendergast.