A life transformed through learning and teaching

It’s no secret that access to learning can propel a career as well as one’s personal growth. What’s less talked about is how sharing knowledge can also expand one’s life experience and deliver emotional rewards.

Udemy instructor Teresa Greenway, 56, embodies both sides of that story: she made an incredible journey from abuse and isolation to a promising future where she’s gained new skills while sharing her own talents with others. 

As the third oldest of 12, Teresa had very little in the way of “formal” education. She received her GED when she was 16 and didn’t have the means or the confidence to continue her schooling. She’d never had a job, felt she had zero skills beyond changing her younger siblings’ diapers, and saw no way out except marriage. Little did she know how much that decision would limit her opportunities and cut her off from fulfilling her potential.

Three decades in isolation

When she was 21, Teresa entered into abusive marriage with a controlling narcissist who moved her far away from her family and kept her on a short leash. She had 10 children with him, as they moved from one squalid “home” to the next.

In addition to the physical deprivations Teresa and her children suffered, the family was traumatized by Teresa’s husband’s inability to live in the real world. Teresa knew soon after her wedding that something was wrong in her marriage; while stricken with morning sickness during her first pregnancy, Teresa was expected to get up and cook her husband’s breakfast. He treated her like property and denied her any independence — dictating what clothing she could wear and how to style her hair, forbidding her from learning to drive, sometimes refusing to allow her to seek medical care for herself or her kids, and belittling her to make her feel worthless.

For someone like Teresa, who’d grown up with limited education, “abuse” meant bruises and broken bones. She didn’t realize she was being abused until many years later. At times, she wished she were dead. She blamed herself for being a bad wife and not trying hard enough to please her husband. An observant Catholic, she felt bound by the marriage vow she’d made. But, most of all, she stayed for her children’s sake, including her youngest son, who has severe autism and was sometimes the target of her husband’s ridicule.

A new beginning

There were bright spots, however. Teresa had always loved baking bread, so when her teenage daughter failed at making “real” sourdough, Teresa took up the challenge and discovered a passion that would play a major role in her life. First, she created a website devoted to sourdough bread-baking, followed by a self-published cookbook. She also posted videos on YouTube and started a group on Facebook that soon attracted a fanbase. But while those channels created a sense of community, they didn’t generate income.


Eventually, Teresa did escape her abusive marriage and divorced her husband of 30 years. As more friends and relatives witnessed his behavior, they took Teresa aside to express concern — and tell her that she didn’t have to put up with such treatment. She also read about abuse online and realized it described her life, even if she didn’t have the physical injuries to show for it.

Ending her marriage was just the beginning of a new struggle for Teresa. Although she was now “free,” she was still carrying a lot of emotional baggage. In the years of therapy that followed, she was diagnosed with PTSD.

Meanwhile, Teresa needed to earn a living and support the two children still living with her. She was barely getting by on a few hundred dollars a month, food stamps, direct sales of her cookbook, and small change from her YouTube videos, but finding work outside her home was problematic too, since her potential employer would need to be okay with her leaving whenever she needed to tend to her autistic son. Teresa searched online for ways to optimize her income and found Udemy. She was amazed at all the things she could learn and immediately took courses on how to make money online and how to improve her video-making skills. She applied what she’d learned to her YouTube channel and saw her earnings rise, but it still wasn’t enough to keep her securely afloat. It was at this point she realized she could turn her love for teaching others into courses on Udemy.

Her Udemy transformation

Teresa launched her first sourdough course on Udemy in April 2015. That first month, she made just over $1,000, and by the end of that summer, she’d netted more than $16,000 in total earnings. Her home studio is still a work-in-progress, but she’s invested some of her earnings to buy better equipment and shares what she’s learned in Udemy’s instructor community on Facebook.

For Teresa, the rewards of teaching on Udemy go far beyond the merely financial. “Udemy is hope for me, not only that I can succeed in supporting myself but I have a real interface with my students now that I didn’t have before,” she says. “Udemy let me take my work to that next level: being able to show hands-on, step-by-step how to do things.” Now, when new bakers find Teresa through her website or YouTube videos, other happy students point them to Udemy; “My students sell my courses for me!”

Teresa is just as grateful for the opportunity to learn on Udemy. “It hasn’t just changed my life; it’s been transformational. I went from being abused, to living on a few hundred dollars a month, to being able to learn skills. That’s truly transformational. As a student, I know now that I can grab on to skills that can make my life better. For me, Udemy means hope for the future.”