DES MOINES, Iowa – Former East High School student Heather Ryan started an online petition to rename the school’s renovated theater after State Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines. Ryan says she started the petition several years ago, but support to rename the building picked up this month.
“We invigorated [the petition] because the theater is done, and it’s about to have a grand opening. And right now is the time for people to take action and sign the petition, contact the administration, let them know how much they support this,” said Heather Ryan, the author of the petition.
Gaines taught at East High School for more than 40 years. Over those years, she produced plays, started several after-school programs and won countless local and national education awards.
“I knew how to motivate [students] to learn; that was my gift,” said Gaines. “And they saw that when I was nominated for Iowa Teacher of the Year, and that’s why I got the award … I was also inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame for that skill of building community and being diverse in my classroom.”
Currently, the petition has more than 2,000 signatures.
“[It] would be huge to people like me who just admire her and were touched by her. It would be an enormous gesture to show inclusivity and how much they care for their teachers and the people who have stuck with them throughout time,” said Ryan.
WHO 13 News attempted to contact East High School and Des Moines Public Schools to determine if the auditorium would be named after Gaines, but neither East High School nor the school district responded to our emails.