Ruth Ann Gaines is serving her fourth term in the Iowa House of Representatives. She serves on the Education, Veteran’s Affairs, Public Safety committees and is the ranking member of the Government Oversight committee. She is a lifelong Democrat.
Ruth Ann Gaines was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1947. She was educated in the parochial school system. She received a B.A. degree in Drama/Speech in 1969 from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa and an M.A. in Dramatic Arts from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1970. She taught drama at East High School from 1971 – 2011. She has been teaching speeceh and drama since 1971 at Des Moines Area Community College. She also currently teaches at Heartland Education Agency.
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 served 4 years on the Iowa Arts Council where she was appointed by Governor Chet Culver in 2008. She was also a Des Moines Human Right Commissioner from 2004 – 2011. She was president of Friends of Greater Des Moines Human Rights from 2007 – 2011.
Ruth Ann has taught many courses that she created in the educational arena. She has been teaching 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, business, 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 created the performing group Voices of Change, who travelled throughout the Midwest performing diversity skits. She also created a mime group, Silent Vibrations, who performed in elementary schools for 38 years.
Ruth Ann is well known throughout the state for her acting and directing endeavors. Ruth Ann has directed/acted in over 200 plays in the Des Moines community. She has produced and hosted her own TV and radio programs, one being the Des Moines Public School District’s television program, Classroom Connection. In the fall of 2009, she directed a 32 episode radio drama, “Queen Street,” 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 has been available to schools. She is an accomplished public speaker, having given the commencement addresses at Iowa State University’s School of Education, Clarke University, Kaplan University and ITT Technical Institute, as well as introducing Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at Des Moines local events.
Ruth Ann has won the George Washington Carver Award from Simpson College in 1979, was the 1987 YWCA Woman of Achievement recipient and was 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. Also in 2002, she was the first Iowan to be awarded the “I’ll Make Me A World” in Iowa individual award. In 2002, she was selected to the USA Today Teacher Leadership Team. 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. In 2011, she received the Fort Des Moines Museum Volunteer of the Year Award and in 2012 she received the Delta Sigma Thera Lifetime Achievement Award in Drama. Ruth Ann graduated from Leadership Iowa in 1996 and in 2002, graduated from the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.
Ruth Ann was selected as a recipient of the Willis National Broadway League Teacher of the Year Award in 2010. Only a few selected teachers across the country receive this award annually. Ruth Ann was one of 15 recipients and the first ever Iowa recipient. She was awarded for collaborating with the Education department of the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines in establishing an educational program for African American girls in the Des Moines public schools to attend “The Color Purple.” Most recently, Ruth Ann was awarded the Alpha Phi Alpha Award of Merit at the Fraternity’s annual Black & Gold Ball. She was also awarded the Des Moines Education Association’s Friend of Education Award. Ruth Ann, along with the other five African American legislators, will receive the “I’ll Make Me A World in Iowa Heritage Legacy” award on January 29, 2016. In 2017 was also awarded the Barbara Boatwright Lifetime Achievement Award from Dawn’s List.
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.