story by Carly Owens.
video by Gary Byrd and Darleine Heitman.
He is one of the 70% who make up California’s community college adjunct teachers and he works three jobs to make ends meet and support his family. This isn’t the story of a student. It’s the story of one of Chaffey’s adjunct professors.
“My life as being an adjunct means for me that I do what I do and put in all my time and energy, and then change gears, pack it up, and shift modes,” Quinton Bemiller, art professor, said.
In addition to teaching contemporary art on campus, Bemiller works at Cal Poly Pomona as the curator of the Kellogg Gallery, and has a studio in Chinatown in Los Angeles, where he teaches two painting class a week.
“I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to be busy,” Bemiller said.
Tuesdays he starts his day at the gallery at Cal Poly, and then comes over to Chaffey to teach two classes, usually leaving campus at about 10 p.m. The rest of the week — including Saturdays — are equally busy with teaching, curating and driving trips between L.A., Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga.
Sundays and Mondays are his two “family days.”
He doesn’t do all these things completely out of financial need, but that does play a role.
“There’s no way I could do all the things I do if I didn’t really like doing them,” he said. “I would just get way too burnt out, and it would be total drudgery.”
Adjuncts are often referred to as “freeway fliers” because they fly along the freeways from one job to another. Bemiller is no different.
“I could write a book on all the things I’ve seen on the freeways, though luckily none of them involved me,” he said. “I’ve become one with driving. This sounds crazy, but driving on the freeway is actually one of the more relaxing times of the day for me. It gives me time to think and not be bothered by anything.”
Driving out to numerous locations is just part of life for an adjunct.
There have been a couple semesters where he would go straight from teaching a kids class at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena to his night class at Chaffey.
His daughter Lily was in the class, so he would drive from the Armory with Lily in the car so that he could use the carpool lane, otherwise he wouldn’t make it to class in time.
His wife would follow him with their other daughter in the car in the carpool lane as well, and when they got to the Chaffey parking lot, Lily would change cars and his wife and two daughters would drive home.
“We did that just so I could use the carpool lane,” he said. “We had this funky little system, just so I could be on time to my job.”
If he were offered a full-time teaching position, Bemiller said, “I would probably take it in a second. I love teaching, it’s just naturally something that I gravitate toward.”
He enjoys teaching, both in formal and informal classrooms. While at his studio in Los Angeles, students enjoy wine and cheese during class.
“His enthusiasm is overwhelming, He has such a great respect for all artists, and he’s extremely knowledgeable, and I don’t think you can find a better teacher. I really don’t.” Jacqueline Tchakalian said, a student at his studio.
He says that it’s hard to tell what aspect of his career will be most fruitful, whether it be teaching, his personal business, or being curator of a gallery.
Bemiller feels that some of the best parts of being an adjunct can also be considered the worst.
While he would want the stability of a full time teaching job, and the ability to focus more on teaching, because of being an adjunct, he is able to enjoy a lot of different experiences.
“It can be stressful sometimes, but most of the time it’s exciting,” Bemiler said. “And keeps things interesting.”