As a child in Atlanta, Brian Malloy always wanted to be a teacher, but he got little support at home. His parents were afraid he wouldn't make any money, and when his football skills helped him to make his way to the University of Pennsylvania, he chose to major in business.

After three years working in the private sector, he was doing well, but deep inside he still wanted to teach. So he quit his job, started to teach as a substitute, and went back to college to earn a master's degree in secondary education.

"I never looked back. That was the best decision I've ever made. It may be an overused term, but I really found my passion once I got in the classroom," said Malloy, 57, who yesterday was selected as the Philadelphia School District's Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year.

Malloy was one of the 24 teachers, administrators and students who won awards during the district's 25th Annual Celebration of Excellence in Education program in Franklin Hall.

Malloy, who teaches 11th- and 12th-grade mathematics at William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs in Northern Liberties, joins colleague Gina S. Hart, who won last year.

Malloy went to the ceremony knowing he was a finalist and was surprised to learn he had won.

The award was no surprise, however, to those who knew him. Malloy is well known in the school for his passion and "outstanding, engaging lessons," according to Bodine's principal, Ann Gardiner.

"He is a great motivator, warm and outgoing," she said. "He brings a lot of life to this building."

For Malloy, it's all about the students.

"I guess the point is conveying to them how important education is, to me and to them. You got a lot of kids on the poverty line who don't have all the tools, but they've got support at home and they come here ready to work," Malloy said. "To me, that is the key."

Larry Melton, principal at Edward W. Bok Technical High School in South Philadelphia, received the Marcus A. Foster Award as an outstanding administrator.

"This job can be stressful and demanding. That's why you need to be very motivated and to care about what you're doing," said Melton, a former science teacher.

Since 2005, when he became principal, Bok's test scores have improved every year but one, he said.

That was possible because of the hard work of all the teachers and students, he said.

"I try to acknowledge [teachers] and to always give them feedback, because being a teacher is very difficult. We all must work together," he said.

The awards included "Grow Your Own" scholarships to three high school seniors who intend to pursue careers in education: Tazhe Cooper from Horace Furness High School, Shakeerah Plummer from Overbrook High School, and Charnay Wilson from Parkway West High School.

The students made a three-year commitment to teach in the district upon graduation from a college or university.

Contact staff writer Rodrigo Muzell at 215-854-5016 or rmuzell@phillynews.com.