A Tribute to Francie, the Heart of Caring Classrooms

When my first DonorsChoose.org project was funded, I felt like I had hit the jackpot! I began telling everyone about this wonderful organization, and my enthusiasm was the reason I later connected with Francie Kugelman, one of the most amazing and generous educators I’ve ever known. Francie was teaching 5th grade at the time, and she was also a volunteer screener for DonorsChoose.org. 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. To see just how effective her strategies have proven to be, visit her DonorsChoose profile page. She’s had 263 projects funded, which resulted in over $148,000 in 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 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.

The Heart of Caring Classrooms

From the very beginning, Francie has been the heart of Caring Classrooms, and she’s 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.

Caring Classrooms on Facebook

Over the last six years, Francie devoted thousands of hours to posting updates about DC matches, selecting projects during our weekly Fund-day Sunday events, announcing contest winners, and answering questions on Facebook. As a result, Caring Classrooms has grown to almost 6,000 members and has raised over a half million dollars in funding for public school classrooms in the United States.

Francie is still teaching full time, although she now teaches 3rd grade, and I’m amazed that she’s been able to devote so much time to supporting other educators. Francie is passionate about the need to integrate the arts into education, and she wants to help others find the resources they need to accomplish this. Watch the video below to hear from Francie and her students why arts integration is so important.

By now you’re probably wondering why I’m sharing so much about Francie’s passion for teaching and her role as a co-founder of the Caring Classrooms Community. I think you’ll understand the reason for this long-overdue tribute as you read her letter below.

Francie’s Letter to the Caring Classrooms Community

Laura Candler and I are thrilled that the Caring Classrooms giving page has reached a new milestone: over $500,000 in donations to projects! It is therefore bittersweet that I share with you that I am retiring from teaching, DonorsChoose.org, and the Caring Classrooms giving page this year.

If you have not made personal connections with DonorsChoose.org teachers, take the time to friend them and meet them online with personal messages. Online teachers have sustained me, because they are like me: overachieving, and working all the time on cool new ideas and classroom projects. The online teachers are just like you, and have made the 18 years I have taught be memorable and full of love and support.

One reason I have administered the Caring Classrooms giving page with Laura Candler for over five years is this quote: “The most beautiful thing is to see a person nearby smiling. And even more beautiful is knowing that you are the reason behind it.” – Mark Chernoff

I have learned through Caring Classrooms how fulfilling it is to help others. I am sure I will somehow continue this role in my new life. Effective February 15th, I will be stepping down as administrator for Caring Classrooms. Laura will continue to run our giving page, but on a much smaller scale. It has been the greatest gift in my life helping to run Caring Classrooms – learning about service and helping others, and getting to know a wonderful person, Laura Candler.

I know you LOVE learning about match offers, so I have selected a wonderful teacher, Laura Edwards, to carry on with this job. She will be posting about match offers on the Kindergarten Rocks Facebook page. Be sure to follow that page so you hear about new match offers.

Laura and I decided to host one last Caring Classrooms Contest together before I leave, and we titled it, Share the Love. If you would like to honor the service and help I have provided through Caring Classrooms, make a $1 or more donation to a project on our giving page during our Share the Love contest, and fill in your information on the Google Document. I hope you win one of the great prizes!

I am retiring in early October (with full health benefits for life!) and will be moving to the woods east of Seattle, saying goodbye to my world in Los Angeles. If you are currently friends with me and want to continue our friendship, friend my personal Facebook account, Francie Kugelman. There is no DC in my personal Facebook name, because I am no longer volunteering as a DonorsChoose.org screener and Ambassador. Thank you for your friendship and support. I will miss you! Love, Francie

Caring Classrooms Community

The Future of Caring Classrooms

When Francie told me that she was planning to retire this year and would need to step down from Caring Classrooms in February, I was stunned speechless! While I was thrilled for the exciting opportunities Francie will be able to experience after retiring, I also selfishly wondered how I could possibly run our giving page without her. Francie has always been the driving force behind Caring Classrooms, and I was overwhelmed at the thought of running it on my own.

At first I considered trying to find someone to replace Francie, but I can’t imagine finding anyone who would be willing to do what she’s done for the last six years. Running weekly Fund-day Sunday events and special contests takes an incredible amount of work and commitment. It still amazes me that a dedicated classroom teacher like Francie would somehow find time to run a giving page like Caring Classrooms. I also considered the option of shutting down the Caring Classrooms Community completely, but that choice didn’t feel right either.

I’ve finally decided on a compromise. I’m going to keep Caring Classrooms open, and I’ll still make financial donations to DonorsChoose.org projects, but I won’t be able to run the giving page the way Francie and I have for the last 6 years. For starters, I won’t be able to host Fund-day Sunday events every week, although I’ll still host them from time to time when the giving page runs low on projects. Caring Classrooms might still host a contest from time to time, but not nearly as often as we’ve done in the past. Also, we’ve been guaranteeing that projects on our page will be fully funded before they expire, but without the Fund-day Sunday events and contests, I won’t be able to guarantee that they will be fully funded. I hope the Caring Classrooms Community members will understand the reason for these changes.

Thank You and Best Wishes, Francie!

I want to end by thanking Francie for her dedication and commitment to her students and to other educators, as well as her passionate support of the Caring Classrooms Community. I loved running the giving page with Francie, but I understand how difficult it would be to continue in light of her upcoming retirement. I wish her all the best in her new life beyond the classroom!

Francie has inspired thousands of educators in her role as an ambassador for DonorsChoose.org, and her impact will be felt long after she retires. If you would like to join me in thanking Francie for her contributions, head over to the Caring Classrooms Facebook page and comment on this post.