Jodi! You put it in a nutshell. I love my community college students. I am not trying to make them all Einsteins but some do come out well. I think the motto of the National Association for Developmental Education (NADE) puts it very well, "Helping Underprepared students prepare Prepared students advance Advanced students excell."
I have no desire to teach at the university level. These are among the hardest working students I have ever had. University research is not for everyone nor should it be. University research does not treat the hospital patient, nor make the parts for jet engines yet those students need math as much as anyone. They deserve the best because they give their all in a classroom. If they wish it, many of these students will go on and do well at the university level for their last two years of a Bachelor's Degree. In the meantime we help those who have been away from math for a while return and succeed. We get many of these students to excell in Math for the first time in their lives. We help those who learn by doing rather than by listening and those who have different learning styles adapt. I always have students who have never received above a C in math start to excell. On a department developed final exam, they score up with those from instructors who teach the "higher levels." Those students, for many reasons, don't start out as "university material" but end up as ready as they need to be. It is definitely the Community College Life for Me too!
MaryLiz Pierce GateWay Community College Phoenix, AZ