WHAT WE KNOW NOW: Retired Teachers Find Hilarity, Comfort in Podcasting

Sue Schwiebert and Lisa Johnson took their past careers in education and turned them into entertainment

Megan Pettys |

TALK OF TEACHING. Retired Eau Claire Area School District teachers Sue (right) and Lisa created a podcast for some much-needed comic relief. (Photos via Facebook)

In recent years, podcasts have become an increasingly popular entertainment format for anyone with a mic, computer, and stories to tell. As long-time best friends and retired teachers of the Eau Claire Area School District, Sue Schwiebert and Lisa Johnson certainly had plenty of tales collected over the years; the rest they would figure out.

Schwiebert and Johnson’s We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know podcast debuted in July 2021 and is now coming up on its third birthday. It has been streamed in 35 countries, has over 4,500 downloads, and 44 episodes as of May 7. The podcast originally began as a collection of funny stories from their years of teaching, but has since evolved into a medium to incite laughter, through silly songs and raps and a wide range of content. Even though the stories are of real children and people in their pasts, the names have been changed. “We didn’t want the stories getting linked back to former students,” Johnson said. “So we definitely want to protect the innocent – and the guilty.”

Schwiebert began her undergraduate studies at UW-Eau Claire in 1982, where she coincidentally met her husband. After graduation, she earned her master’s in education from the same university, where she also sent her two children to study education. “Eau Claire owes me some cash,” Schwiebert said cheekily, just one of the many glimpses into her humor. She spent two years substituting between the Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire school districts, seeking the proper fit for her pedagogy until she found her job in Eau Claire that she would dedicate herself to for 33 years. She retired in 2019.

Johnson graduated from UW-Eau Claire as a double major, with both elementary and special education as her emphases, and received her master’s degree shortly after. Her career began all over the place as she moved around, spending 10 years in special education before she finally found her job in Eau Claire, where she spent 24 years. “I ended up in the same school as Sue and we ended up being fast friends,” she said. “We did a lot – a lot – of stuff together over the years.” Interestingly enough, both Schwiebert and Johnson grew up in the La Crosse area, although they did not meet until their careers brought them together.

“Most human beings need a creative outlet. For some it’s gardening – for us, it’s talking.”

Sue Schwiebert

“The weirdest superpower I want is that I could touch somewhere and see where it’s been through history,” Schwiebert said. “But more than that, I could touch someplace in La Crosse and see if Lisa and I ever crossed paths.”

After Johnson retired in 2022, the two decided to put their heads together and maintain creativity. The podcast was born out of stories Schwiebert and Johnson collected over their many years in the classroom, where whenever they would get together they would talk, reminisce, and laugh. “When we would have lunch together, we’d pretend to have our own radio talk show, just to make each other laugh,” Johnson said.

Realizing the hilarity in their tales and sensing a need for teachers and all people to find humor in the tough times, Schwiebert suggested starting a podcast. Johnson’s only stipulation? “As long as it’s comedy, not complaining,” Johnson said.

We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know has completely surpassed their expectations. What began as a documentation of their favorite comedic moments from their career became an outlet of expression and creativity. “Most human beings need a creative outlet. For some it’s gardening – for us, it’s talking,” Schwiebert said. “My brain has stretched from where we started. The creative process is really fulfilling.”

We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, their Buzzsprout page, and anywhere you can find your podcasts. Make sure to like, share, and review to support them, and keep up with them via their Facebook, Sue and Lisa