Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Wunderbar! Meet the au pair of the year

A German au pair is keeping two Kiwi toddlers connected to their father's culture, teaching them the same language as their family overseas.

Saskia Ziegelhoefer, 24, has been looking after Franz and Sabine Viedermann in Glendowie since February, winning Au Pair of the Year for the close bond she has created with them.

Franz and Sabine's father, Alex Viedermann, is from Bavaria, Germany and the couple wanted their children to be connected to that heritage, their mother Natasha O'Brien said.

After Sabine, 1, was born and O'Brien returned to work, having a Bavarian caregiver became a priority.

The increase in 2-year-old Franz' German-speaking abilities since the start of the year had been "dramatic", she said.

Ziegelhoefer spoke the language with the children, sang the same nursery songs and told them the stories their father had heard growing up in Bavaria.

"[Saskia] is just a really special, loving person," O'Brien said.

"She loves them like a brother and sister. For me it's like having a second mother."

Ziegelhoefer, a qualified kindergarten teacher, said looking after the children was not so much a job as it was like looking after her own siblings.

"I'm really happy. I thought it was possible to get a good family [to au pair for] but I didn't think it would be so perfect as it was."

As the winner of Au Pair Link's 2016 award, Ziegelhoefer received $1000 from STA Travel to fund her future backpacking plans - not that she wanted to think about leaving just yet.

The family is trying to have her visa extended for six months to a year so she can stay with the children longer.

- NZ Herald

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