Ruth Ann Gaines

State Representative for District 32

"Ms. Gaines doesn't put herself first, she puts the needs of her students first. She takes teaching beyond the classroom." 
-- Elizabeth Briley, Student

Representative Gaines with her son, Brandon (left) and her significant other, Vidal Spaine (right).

Representative Gaines with fellow sisters of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority inc.

Representatives Ruth Ann Gaines and Ako Abdul-Samad with the state champion Lady Scarlets, East High School Girls Basketball Team

Representative Gaines with fellow East High School educators Vidal Spaine and Shirley Gooch.

"I am ready to listen to the people of Des Moines in District 32, and help our kids and families prepare for the jobs of the 21st Century."

Ruth Ann Gaines was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1947. She was educated in the parochial school system. She received a BA degree in Drama/Speech in 1969 from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa and a M.A. in Dramatic Art from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1970. She has been teaching drama at East High School and Speech and Drama at Des Moines Area Community College since 1971. Ruth Ann has served on numerous boards and commissions throughout the years. She was appointed to the State Foster Care Review Board by Governor Tom Vilsack in 2000 and is currently serving on the Iowa Arts Council where she was appointed by Governor Chet Culver in 2008. She is also currently a Des Moines Human Rights Commissioner. She has been a Commissioner since 2004.

Ruth Ann has created many initiatives in the educational arena. She has taught diversity courses to teachers since 1979 at the Heartland Area Education Agency in Des Moines and most recently at Viterbo University Iowa Center in West Des Moines. She has also been recognized as a national diversity trainer for colleges and universities, businesses, corporations and churches.

Among the many initiatives she has created for the Des Moines Public Schools is Sisters for Success, a mentorship program for African American middle and high school girls. This program has been used as a model for other like programs in schools throughout the state.

She is also well known throughout the state for her acting and directing endeavors. Last fall she directed a 32 episode radio drama that was a part of the Iowa Initiative to prevent unwanted pregnancies, chaired by Christie Vilsack and Sally Pederson. This program aired in various communities throughout the state and will also be made available to schools. She has hosted her own radio and television shows, and is an accomplished public speaker.

Ruth Ann was a 1987 YWCA Woman of Achievement and the 1993 Rotary High School Teacher of the Year.  She was the 1998 Iowa Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. During the last few years, she has also been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the Iowa African American Hall of Fame and the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2002 she was selected as a Central Iowa Woman of Influence. She was given the key to the city by Mayor Preston Daniels in 2003 and received an Iowa Character Counts Award in 2005. She served on the Loras College Board of Regents from 2001-2004 and was the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Ruth Ann is also a graduate of Leadership Iowa in 1996 and a 2002 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

Ruth Ann is a single adoptive parent of a child with multiple disabilities. In 1984, she was one of 15 single persons to adopt in Iowa. She has worked for and served on numerous committees and boards to help the disabled. She served on Very Special Arts Iowa Board and has sponsored many special needs artists in the Des Moines community.

At the behest of other community leaders and personal interest, Ruth Ann has sought political office in the past. She ran for the Iowa Senate in 1994 and the Des Moines City Council in 2004. In 2010, she ran for State House taking over a position formerly held by Wayne Ford and won. During this past session, she served on the Education, Judiciary, Public Safety, Local Government Oversight and Educational Appropriations Committees. She is currently seeking re-election to District 32 (formerly District 65). She is a lifelong Democrat.

Special Honors, Awards and Presentations

  • 2010 Broadway League Educator Apple Award Recipient
  • 2008 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2007 Inductee, Iowa Womens Hall of Fame
  • 2004 Inductee, Iowa African American Hall of Fame
  • 2003 Inductee, National Teachers Hall of Fame
  • 2002 USA Today All-USA Third Team Teacher Award 
  • 2002 Women of Influence in Central Iowa Award, Des Moines Business Records 
  • 2002 Graduate of Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute 
  • 2002, 2000, 1990 Who's Who Among Teachers 
  • 2002 I'll Make Me A World in Iowa - Heritage Legacy Award (first recipient) 
  • 2001 Commitment to Diversity Award (Conferred by University of Iowa Ed. Dept.) 
  • 2001 Selected to Board of Regents at Loras College, Dubuque, IA 
  • 2000 Teacher of the Year Award (Friends of Iowa Civil Rights Commission) 
  • 1999 Angel in Adoption Award (US Congressional Committee on adoption) 
  • 1998 Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year 
  • 1998 Iowa Teacher of the Year 
  • 1998 Minorities in Teaching Award (University of Northern Iowa) 
  • 1998 One of four finalists, The National Teacher of the Year 
  • 1997 Graduate of Leadership Iowa 
  • 1993 Rotary High School Teacher of the Year (Des Moines Rotary Club) 
  • 1987 YWCA Woman of Achievement Award 
  • 1979 George Washington Carver Award (Simpson College)

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