A Tribute to Francie, the Heart of Caring Classrooms

Francie Kugelman and I founded the Caring Classrooms Community in 2013, and we spent the next 10 years collaborating on ways to spread the word about DonorsChoose and to help teachers get their classroom projects funded. Francie was passionate about DonorsChoose, and she was a joy to work with! Through her wisdom and generosity, she touched the lives of thousands of students and teachers before her passing on March 24, 2024.  As I reflected on her generous spirit and her impact, I was moved to share the story of how we founded the Caring Classrooms Community and some of the ways that Francie made a difference in so many lives. 


I first learned about DonorsChoose a few years before I retired from teaching. The organization sounded amazing, yet I was a bit skeptical about the concept of complete strangers donating money to classrooms. But I became a believer when my first project funded, and I felt like I had hit the jackpot when my materials arrived!

I began sharing the news about DonorsChoose far and wide, both in person and online, and I somehow connected with Francie Kugelman, who was even more passionate than me about DonorsChoose! Francie was teaching 5th grade at the time, and she was also a volunteer project screener for DonorsChoose. Francie’s strategies for writing effective proposals had helped her obtain thousands of dollars’ worth of funding for her classroom, and she was eager to share her insights with others. Believe it or not, Francie had 264 DonorsChoose projects funded before she retired, which resulted in over $148,000 worth of funding for her classroom and school!

Financial Literacy with Calculators


As a result of our shared passion for DonorsChoose.org, Francie and I teamed up to spread the word about this charitable organization. We presented two webinars together, co-authored several blog articles, and encouraged teachers on social media.

In August of 2013, we co-founded the Caring Classrooms Giving Community to provide even more support for teachers who need help getting their projects funded. Caring Classrooms consists of a giving page where we feature projects, and a Facebook page where our members can ask questions, share ideas, and interact with each other. Our Facebook page eventually grew to over 17,000 followers, and the Caring Classrooms Community has now helped raise over 1.2 million dollars in donations to benefit teachers and students across America!

The Heart of Caring Classrooms

From the very beginning, Francie was the heart of Caring Classrooms, and she was the reason our community became so successful. Francie had a clear vision of how she wanted Caring Classrooms to operate, and we crafted a set of guidelines based on her vision, guidelines that were designed to encourage and support the members of our community. One thing we both agreed upon was that we would make sure that EVERY project we added to our giving page would be fully funded before it expired, even if we had to fund it ourselves, and we kept that promise!

Caring Classrooms on Facebook


Francie was passionate about the need to integrate the arts into education, and she wanted to help others find the resources they needed to accomplish this. A few years after we started Caring Classrooms, we decided to present several webinars to share tips and strategies for getting projects funded through DonorsChoose. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get projects funded on DonorsChoose, you can watch the recording of DonorsChoose: A Jackpot of Classroom Funding below. However, keep in mind that the webinar was recorded in 2016 so some of the information may not be relevant today.

Francie retired from teaching in 2019, and she and her husband moved to Issaquah, Washington. When she said she was going to step back from Caring Classrooms, I was surprised at the news because I knew how much joy it brought her to work with teachers and to promote DonorsChoose. Sure enough, a few months later she was back on board with us!

During the years before and after Francie retired from the classroom, she devoted thousands of hours to posting updates on our Facebook page about DC matches, selecting projects during our weekly Fundday Sunday contests, announcing contest winners, and answering questions about how to get projects funded. She loved interacting with teachers on Facebook, and she especially loved helping “newbies” get their first projects funded. 

Francie had loads of creative ideas for making sure the projects on our giving page got funded.  For example, a few years ago she discovered that when projects have a lot of unique donors, they get bumped up to the top of the DonorsChoose website and are funded more quickly. So she started trading $1 and $2 donations with other teachers to increase the unique donor count, and it worked! She then proposed that Caring Classrooms host a huge trading event where hundreds of teachers would sign up to trade donations on a designated day. That first trading event was so successful that we repeated it many times over the last few years. Those events were a lot of work, but they were loads of fun, too, because we were able to get dozens of projects funded in a single day. We were both thrilled to watch projects fly off our giving page on trading day! 

The Future of Caring Classrooms

Francie has always been the driving force behind Caring Classrooms, so when I learned of her passing, I was saddened by the loss and overwhelmed at the thought of running the Caring Classrooms giving page on my own. However, I’m committed to keeping her legacy alive, so I know that I’ll find a path forward. I might not have Francie’s expertise with all things DonorsChoose, but I do love choosing projects for our giving page and helping teachers get their projects funded.

Francie was an amazing educator, a passionate advocate for DonorsChoose, and an inspiration to everyone who knew her. While I’m deeply saddened about her passing, I truly believe that Francie is still with us in spirit. When I worry about how to move forward with Caring Classrooms, I am comforted when I think of Francie as a guardian angel who will continue to shower her love and support on us. Francie will be greatly missed, and the Caring Classrooms Community will never be the same without her. But when I think of how Francie lived her life, I don’t think she would want us to mourn her for long. Instead, she would want us to embrace all that life has to offer and to treasure every moment we have on this earth. 


If you would like to share your memories of Francie and your stories about how she impacted your life, visit the Caring Classrooms Facebook page and comment on this post

I’m in the process of planning a special DonorsChoose donation event in Francie’s memory, but I haven’t yet worked out all the details. When I do, I’ll send an email to the teachers on the Caring Classrooms email list and I’ll also post the details on Facebook.