JANINE WEERS


JANINE WEERS_450na361 J1 teacher VISA
German Immersion School, Menlo Park, California

Related, approved outside employment while in J-1 visa exchange teacher status as an au pair liaison While teaching in California, I came across an excellent organization dedicated to making their au pair program a successful experience for everyone involved: A.P.EX-ProAuPair (APEX). APEX was seeking a part time Area Director for the San Francisco area. This seemed like an assignment that would enable me to utilize and broaden my insights  and experience and meet new people in the country I am visiting.

I contacted the Cordell Hull Foundation, my J-1 teacher visa sponsor, to ask again for clarification of the parameters for acceptable “outside employment” outside the scope of my regular teaching position. Marianne Mason, Executive Director, responded that a CHF exchange teacher may obtain a job outside school hours for up to 10 hours per week (starting in January of your first year in the US) as long as:

1. You must have permission from the school principal or your immediate supervisor.

2. The work must be education-related, i.e. tutoring, teaching in a community school, teaching a weekend course, etc., or culture-related.

In other words, an exchange teacher in J-1 visa status cannot work at Starbucks!

After notifying the Cordell Hull Foundation of my intentions and getting their approval, I applied for this position. APEX is the only au pair agency in the US with a Professional, Special Needs, Live-In Child Care Program designated by the U.S. Department of State. By connecting professional au pairs from other countries with families in the U.S., they help facilitate a great international experience for all parties. They require applicants to have qualifying degrees and take a very close look at the families, too.

Unlike other au pair programs, APEX accepts applicants only from selected fields:
– Nurses, especially those experienced in pediatrics;
– Educators, particularly those certified and experienced in early childhood education;
– Occupational and physical therapists;
– Elementary school teachers;
– Social Pedagogues.

Hand-picked professional au pairs work with babies, special needs children, and/or multiple children. Each au pair has a child-care related degree in a field such as pediatric nursing; pre-school teaching; special needs education or occupational therapy; or at least two years of experience. The mission of APEX is to add to foreign nationals’ experience in these selected fields by working for a family in the US who need and appreciate knowledgeable bilingual help.

In my new part time position as the Area Director is approved by the Cordell Hull Foundation, my visa sponsor, as outside employment, I work no more than ten (10) hours per week serving as a liaison between host families and international au pairs. Since I am a J-1 exchange visitor from Germany, I feel I can relate to at least a few important issues worth considering.

The position requires strong interpersonal skills, good communication, marketing, and even sales skills, but mainly it is all about children, families, and establishing a successful and lasting connection.
The Area Director’s job responsibilities include:
– Increasing host family participation in the APEX program;
– Providing information to potential host families about the au pair program;
– Interviewing potential host families;
– Participating in the “placement” experience
– Conducting arrival orientations for new au pairs and their host families;
– Supporting au pairs and their families throughout their participation time;
– Educating program participants;
– Planning and holding monthly events for au pairs and an annual family and au pair event.

I am in touch with au pairs in the Bay Area and host families helping them find a college to take classes and to adapt to the American way of life and cultural differences.

Of course, I will also be the troubleshooter. It is a challenge I am actually looking forward to.

This agency’s au pair program here in the US is set up for 12 months but can be extended quite easily by up to an additional 12 months. After completing the program, the au pair may also travel the US for one full month.

Matching families with au pairs will be one of the Area Director’s tasks. APEX specializes in placing professional au pairs with loving and caring families in the United States. All of its host families must meet a list of criteria and standards in order to be approved for matching with one of the international au pairs. In this way, they can ensure that the exchange visitors will be living with a nice and supportive family for the duration of their au pair experience.

Program representatives meet the families in person, check references, and try to get a comprehensive overall picture before accepting them into the program. Only families who meet the very highest standards for the Professional Au pair Program may begin looking for a new family member in the form of an au pair.

APEX seems like an interesting and exciting way for me to learn more about this country beyond my regular teaching assignment. I am thankful for this opportunity to work with a successful program dedicated to international exchange and special needs children.

As Cordell Hull Foundation exchange teachers in J-1 visa status, most of us know something about au pair programs. Maybe because back in our home countries some of our former students decided to become au pairs or requested information from us, maybe because we have met some current au pairs here in the U.S. And yes – we remember seeing quite a few applicants when we were applying for J1-visas at the American Embassy back in our home countries. They all were going through the same process.

Some of us also heard about stories or rumor of au pair experiences not meeting these expectations and standards, for all sorts of reasons. APEX, however, sets its standards high and prides itself on satisfaction of both families and hand-picked sponsored international bilingual professional au pairs. Most au pairs wish to supplement their education and skills with experiences in a different culture, which is why the U.S. and Australia are among their favorite destinations. While doing that, they hope to gain work experience related to their fields in particular, improve their foreign language skills to near-perfection, and of course travel another country and gain insights and enriching experiences.

You can find more information on the APEX website: www.proaupair.com.

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