Chuck Newsom knows how to coach football, basketball, track and field, and volleyball athletes.
He knows how to teach and reach special-education students.
He doesn’t know how to tell time.
“Six-thirty at night and we’re warming up for a 7 o’clock kickoff and he’s going, ‘Good morning, men,’” former Timber Creek High (Erial, Gloucester Township) football star Greg Webb said of Newsom, a longtime assistant coach for the high-powered Chargers.
It’s a running joke among people such as Webb, who played defensive line at Temple, and former Timber Creek head football coach Rob Hinson, now an assistant at Rutgers, that Newsom would start every interaction with his signature catchphrase.
They know that Newsom, Timber Creek’s Educator of the Year for 2019-20, can tell the difference between morning, afternoon, and night. They know it’s his way of spurring others to be alive, alert, awake.
“It’s his way of saying, ‘Wake up, let’s go,’” Hinson said.
Newsom’s devotion to his students and ability to engage and inspire those with special needs make him a worthy choice for the school’s top faculty honor, according to Timber Creek principal Luis Amberths.
“If you ask anyone about ‘Coach News,’ his colleagues will say that he has a gift of being able to build relationships that connect with learners,” Amberths said in an email. “These connections are most evident with students who need it the most.”
The gruff and gregarious Newsom, 63, is a former football and basketball standout at Pennsauken High and the son of Charlie Newsom, a legendary street fighter known far and wide in his later years as “Old Man Newsom.” Chuck Newsom graduated from Rowan University, then Glassboro State College, in 1980 with a degree in law and justice, figuring he would become a police officer.
Then he got an offer to become a union ironworker, a job he held for 10 years.
“Good money but it was really hard,” Newsom said.
He went back to school and earned his teaching certificate. He worked at Camden and Pennsauken high schools, always in special education and always serving as an assistant coach for different sports teams, before moving to Timber Creek 13 years ago.
“My wife thought I was crazy,” Newsom said. “She’s like, ‘Who makes a change like that when you’re 50 years old?’
“I said, ‘Let’s take a chance.’”
Newsom quickly became part of the diverse and inclusive culture at Timber Creek, where he has taught students with behavior disorders and served as an assistant coach in football, girls’ basketball, and track and field. Last fall, Newsom became the head coach of the Chargers’ girls’ volleyball team, a new program in the athletic department.
Asked what he knows about girls’ volleyball, Newsom said, “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
Newsom was stunned when Timber Creek officials, bearing balloons and a banner and wearing protective masks, arrived at his door on April 8 with news of his teacher-of-the-year award.
“I felt like I hit the lottery,” he said.
Newsom said his love for teaching and coaching springs from his appreciation of the students and athletes.
“It’s the kids’ energy and enthusiasm,” Newsom said. "They make it fun. They make it special to be around them."
Hinson, who led Timber Creek to four South Jersey titles and seven championship-game appearances in 14 seasons before taking a position at Rutgers in March, said Newsom’s background is the secret to his success, as a teacher and a coach.
“It’s his empathy,” Hinson said. “He didn’t come from much and he never forgets where he came from. The whole school loves him. Not just his students or the athletes. He can relate to everybody.”
Said Webb: “He is as real, genuine, and transparent as anyone you could meet.”
Hinson said Newsom is famous around school for stocking his desk every morning with fruit, candy, and treats.
“Everybody in the school — students, teachers, maintenance men — always is going through his desk saying, ‘What’s Coach News got in here today?’” Hinson said.
Former Timber Creek star quarterback Devin Leary, who set state records for passing yardage and touchdowns and now is the starting quarterback at North Carolina State, called Newsom “the most positive/energetic person I’ve ever met in my life” and a bottomless source of good vibrations.
“He has the ability to connect with every student at Timber Creek,” Leary said via text. “No matter the occasion, once you see ‘Coach News’ your day is already better.
“No matter what time of day, he will always greet you with ‘good morning,’ followed by asking how you are doing.”
Newsom can tell time. But he remembers attending a seminar years ago when a guest speaker took the stage at around 3 p.m.