Teaching math at the Community College of Aurora is something Alice C. Gilbert is very passionate about.

“I love to be able to help them and I love when they get it,” Gilbert said.

But she says teaching it in a way that everyone understands can be challenging.

“Certain kinds of students will get the message I want them to have and therefore have a better opportunity and a lot of other students are not getting that message,” Gilbert said.

Getting that message across is what she hopes other faculty members will also accomplish with their classes: Making sure all students have an equal opportunity to learn.

That’s one reason why the school’s mathematics department is one of 20 in the nation named as finalists to receive the Excelencia in Education award. It’s an award given to schools across the country who promote Latino student success in higher education.

Success Mathematics Department Head James Gray hopes transfers into career opportunities for his students.

“When a faculty member gets to the point where they are reaching all groups of students, it’s an extraordinarily empowering feeling,” Gray said. “It’s not just a matter of getting students into college, it’s also getting them into the fields which are very high demand types of fields.”

It’s a success Gilbert said can create new opportunities, giving all students a chance for a quality education.

“They can take that for themselves and continue opening up those opportunities for themselves,” Gilbert said.

The school was the only community college chosen in the state of Colorado by Excelencia in Education. The finalists will be recognized on Sept. 21 in Washington, D.C.