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Meet PE Teacher Marcella Wasson of Martin Luther King, Jr Elementary

Marcella Wasson

Spotlight: Physical Education in Oakland Schools

Meet Marcella Wasson


In 2016, OUSD was one of 15 school districts in the country to receive the federal Carol White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant. Our overall goal for the program is for students in 1st to 5th grade to get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity. Our ten PEP schools focus on physical education in collaboration with amazing PE teachers and active, inclusive recess thanks to a partnership with Playworks. The ten OUSD school sites are: Allendale, Community United, East Oakland Pride, EnCompass, Esperanza, Franklin, Global Family, Grass Valley, Korematsu, and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary.


The OUSD Wellness Champion Program got to speak with Marcella Wasson, a PEP PE instructor at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary and a Teacher on Special Assignment to coach new PE teachers at PEP school sites. She shared her passion for the importance of prioritizing physical activity to benefit our students and schools.


Marcella’s favorite part of being a PE teacher is being everyone’s teacher. I get to know my students in areas that are not based on academic performance”, she says. “I model healthy eating and expose my students to activities and sports they can enjoy for a lifetime. Students are excited to come to PE - they want to exercise and move their bodies through play.

Wasson with students on playground


Weather and space are challenges for any PE teacher, but for Marcella the biggest challenge is that PE isn’t prioritized as an important part of the curriculum. “Research concludes that physical activity has a positive impact on academic performance, improved behavior, increased concentration and mental cognition”, notes Marcella.


“We know the positive effects of exercise and eating well, now we need to make it an important part of our students’ education.... physical & health education must be made a priority in parallel with other academic subjects.”


She appreciates how the PEP grant is helping OUSD reach communities that did not have access to physical and health education and implement positive, healthy changes.






Want to incorporate more physical activity into the school day? Here are some ideas:

  • Marcella recommends all students begin their day with guided physical activity for at least 15 minutes every morning. This can build community, benefit teachers who exercise with their students, and demonstrate a commitment to daily activity to improve students’ health. 


  • Playworks' Recess Lab website has suggestions on small and big actions "to help more principals, teachers, and students discover the power of play" - particularly during recess. Even more Playworks resources here.



The federal Carol White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant is administered through the Health and Wellness Unit, Community Schools and Student Services (CSSS) at OUSD.