McKinstrey: 25 Years in the Classroom


Since 1995,  almost every student at Pella High has taken at least one business class from Jay McKinstrey.  Twenty-five years may seem long to the students, but for McKinstrey, the time has flown by.  It’s strange to him that he has been in a Pella High classroom longer than any of the other current teachers; he no longer sees the people who taught before him: those teachers who had been teaching for a while when he first came to Pella High and who mentored him through his first few years. His teaching career has been a journey, but he has learned a lot, and he continues to enjoy teaching business classes at Pella High. 

Teaching is in McKinstrey’s family.  His dad was a teacher and his mom had a teaching degree; although, she stayed home with the kids.  McKinstrey eventually followed their footsteps as a teacher, but originally, he had a different idea.  McKinstrey wanted to be an accountant.  He went to college to pursue an accounting degree; however, in his sophomore year, classes began getting harder, and he took an education class. 

“Maybe God put the challenges there to make me trust in Him,” said McKinstrey. “If I had to do it again, I would ask God what to do.”  

That year he switched his career path and finally graduated with a degree in Business Education.  McKinstrey then came to Pella and started teaching business classes, many of which he still teaches today.  McKinstrey says that technology, course offerings, and demographics have changed; in addition, there are more behind-the-scenes requirements to fulfill as a teacher.  But despite changes and challenges, McKinstrey says that  “as a majority, kids really want to do well here,” and that this has lasted throughout his teaching career.   

From 25 years of teaching, McKinstrey has learned several things.  

“I think I’ve just learned a lot from different people,” he said, such as how to “make kids think better, be more involved, … [and] see kids differently,” loving them better and not jumping to conclusions about them.  

McKinstrey likes having good relationships with his students.  

“One of the neatest things,” he said, “is when maybe five or six years after a student graduates, they email and say thanks.”  

He wants to help students succeed in their adult lives by giving them tools to use now, and he appreciates when students put what they learn into practice and find it helpful.  He hopes to continue teaching at Pella High for five more years, still getting to enjoy engaging with financial, business, and accounting topics in an environment he finds more comfortable than an accounting office–with the students of Pella High.