Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

April 1, 2013

Dunigan honored for Women's History Month


CROSSVILLE — Fair Park Senior Center has named Florinda "Flory" Aguilar Dunigan as it's 2013 Women's History Month honoree. The presentation was made March 22. The 2013 National Women's History Month theme, "Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination," recognizes American women's outstanding contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM. 

This March, thousands of programs and events highlighted the many organizations and programs working to promote women's and girls’ interest and participation in STEM. From engaging elementary students in STEM to fighting pay discrimination, their efforts are actively working to expand the opportunities in the STEM fields.

Dunigan is an exceptional example of inspiring innovation through imagination. She came to Cumberland County High School to teach Spanish in the mid-1970s. Her life plans never included being a teacher, in spite of the fact that her mother was a teacher of teachers in her native Cuba. At the high school, Dunigan taught Spanish, chemistry, computer science and media productions.

In 1978, under the leadership of Gary Nixon, a very “freshman” and innovative principal, Dunigan started exploring the uses of computers everywhere. She went to a professional meeting where an incipient use of computers was presented. Nixon and Dunigan explored the possibilities of teaching some computer courses at the high school. She wrote a proposal for such a course and the Tennessee Department of Education approved the course as a special course because, at that time, there was not a curriculum for computer instruction at the state department. The proposal was approved and Cumberland County High School became the 16th high school in the state to have a course in computer sciences.

Money was needed to buy at least two computers for that class. The Cumberland County Board of Education was asked for funds to buy the computers and they provided the means to buy two computers, which were the first desktop computers in the county. At the same time, Dunigan received a grant from the National Science Foundation to go back to school to learn about “computer technology and its uses.” She went to class at night and taught her students the next day what she had learned the night before. She and her students did homework together.

From this beginning, Dunigan developed a deep love and respect for the potential of computer technology. She served on Governor Lamar Alexander’s task force for the State of Tennessee Department of Education that determined the first curriculum for computer instruction for school children in Tennessee. She was made a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow for her work in computer technology in schools. Later, with her continued involvement in the development of educational computer technology at the state level, she developed her media classes where students were trained in the production and execution of live television broadcasting. It was in those classes that were produced many productions used by organizations and schools in the county. Some of the students from those classes are today in leadership positions in the broadcasting industry. The first school website for any school in the county was also developed in this class.

Dunigan has participated in innumerable workshops and conferences at the county and state levels where she taught computer skills and computer-assisted instruction to many of her peers and supervisors. At the same time, she was an adjunct professor at Roane State Community College, teaching some of the first classes in computer technology taught there. A number of Cumberland Countians were trained in computer skills in those classes.

At Roane State she taught one of the first classes using interactive video, teaching a course via television that went out to classes on different campuses at the same time, a practice that she continues using today in some of her classes at the college where she has been a professor since her retirement from the Cumberland County School System in 2008.

Dunigan continues to be very much involved in computer technology, developing materials for her students to facilitate their studies and learning. She continues to be very busy with her classes at Roane State helping students through their learning processes to become exemplary leaders in our society. Cumberland County is delighted to honor Dunigan for her pursuit of excellence in integrating computers into Cumberland County and for her continued service to our community.