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Teacher was ‘voice of Harllee’

ONECO — Joan Medlin might blush at what’s being said about her.

“She was Harllee,” said Carrie Armstrong, an assistant principal at Harllee Middle School.

“She always cared about the kids,” said Darlene Kennedy, the school’s secretary for a decade.

“She was strict, old school, but the kids adored her,” said math teacher Linda Fryer, Medlin’s best friend and colleague since the school at 6423 Ninth St. E. opened in 1974.

Their words honor a private woman, an innovative reading teacher and former Manatee teachers union president, whose passing Dec. 27 at the age of 59 left a legacy of behind-the-scenes generosity toward students and peers.

Books. Clothing. Field trips. Scholarships. Supplies. Medlin took care of them discreetly.

“She did things for others even I didn’t know about — and we’ve been friends for 35 years,” Fryer said.

That Medlin remained at Harllee for nearly all of her 38 years as an educator is a testament of her devotion to students who needed caring and attention most.

“She had an affinity for this type of child — from a low socio-economic area with high crime,” Fryer said. “‘If we can save just one kid.’ That’s how she felt. That’s what she did.”

Medlin’s institutional knowledge of the school was an invaluable tool, as well.

“Anything we did — the yearbook, Renaissance — she knew the way it was done over the years and she remembered all who came through here,” said Armstrong, now in her second year at the school. “She was the voice you needed to give you the history of Harllee. A rarity.”

Said Kennedy, “We won’t see that anymore. It’s sad to see it end.”