Courtney Blankenbeckler is a material girl.

Not the type that’s focused on the finer things in life, but rather the kind that enjoys shopping for a unique piece of fabric, then transforming it into a one-of-a-kind garment with her trusty Singer sewing machine. She’s been known to wear a few of her custom-made outfits to work, but really hopes no one noticed they were homemade.

“My grandmother got me into sewing and showed me the basics,” she said. “I’ve made dresses and pants. Measuring is the hardest part.”

Her grandmother taught her to carefully cut the pattern, pin it to the fabric and then cut once again. She also taught her the techniques needed for creating even stiches, smoothing the seams, and tailoring each item to fit properly.  It would be a lot easier to simply shop for a ready-made item, Courtney admits, but said she gets a great deal of satisfaction from making a garment from scratch.

A graduate of Holston High School, Courtney completed an associate’s degree in Human Services from VHCC in 2015, then earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University in 2016. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Human Services from Liberty University, but hasn’t given up on creative writing completely. In fact, she still dreams of writing a novel one day.

“I like writing fiction,” she said. “I like the way you can really express yourself with words.”

She also enjoys walking on the Creeper trail, reading and watching movies – especially Jaws, a movie she first watched as a child and has now seen more times than she can count.

When not busy with her hobbies or graduate studies, Courtney also serves as Tutor Coordinator for VHCC. She transitioned into the job just over a year ago after working as a tutor for several years.

“It a very rewarding job because I get to see the positive impact that tutoring has on students,” she said, explaining that tutoring is free for all VHCC students. “Once they get the help they need, they begin to see that it’s not as difficult as they are making it. It’s very rewarding for me to see students become successful.”

Under her direction, the VHCC Tutoring Center recently gained Level I certification through the College Reading & Learning Association’s (CRLA) International Tutor Training Program. The certification indicates VHCC’s tutors meet internationally accepted standards of skills and training. Courtney spearheaded the certification efforts and was responsible for creating training modules focused on such things as study skills, goal setting, active listening and dealing with difficult students. She’s currently working on more advanced modules that will lead to Level II certification.

“We have some really great tutors who have worked with us for a long time,” she said. “I think certification shows that our tutors are well qualified and committed to student success.”