HOUSTON, Minn. -- With back to school shopping in full swing, kids and teachers are starting to think about the upcoming school year.

The high school social studies teacher at Houston School District is being recognized for doing more than just teaching a good history lesson.

Ms. Mathers does more than just teach history facts. "I can talk to her about anything and walking into her classroom every day makes me smile," said Samantha Becker, Freshman. Houston High School junior, Mitchell Beckman said, "She knows everyone on a personal level and she's just a friend along with a teacher."

This relationship, which Ms. Mathers has created with her students, is a part of her teaching style. "My goal is to get to know them. Ask them questions establish a relationship and then I feel like once that relationship is established, that connection is built, then I can really teach them," said Ms. Mathers.

And how she teaches them depends on who they are and how they learn. "My American government students and international geography students this year, that particular class was very hands on. So, I did more projects than I had in previous years. The first year I taught it that class was more into debate and discussion so we did a lot more of that."

In this social studies class, made up of mostly boys, Ms. Mathers may use a few more games to add a little competition into learning which studies have shown is an effective teaching technique for many boys. Her students say the variety of teaching styles she uses in the classroom works.

"I've never not been confident on one of the tests that I've taken for her in the past, because I know that if I do the study guide, if I paid attention enough, I know what i need to know," said Becker. "When she has the curriculum she makes it easier for us to learn things at a more basic level and then she works her way up. She doesn't leave any students behind or guessing," said Beckman.

But if students do need extra help, the relationship they've built with Ms. Mathers helps them feel comfortable enough to ask. "They respect me. They respect my classroom. They feel safe here. They feel like they can say anything here. And they know my door is always open," said Ms. Mathers.

Superintendent of Houston Public Schools, Jean Broadwater said, "If you don't have a relationship with the children, nothing else will take place. Teachers need to take the time to build relationships with kids before they do anything else. There's not going to be any learning or no engagement, and the kids need to know that you care about them. And she definitely cares about kids.

Which is why being named August's Top Notch Teacher is such an honor to her. "I try very hard to recognize my students and award them and I try really hard to acknowledge them. It's kind of my goal every day to at least tell one kid in every class something that I'm proud of that they've done. So when I got that kind of recognition.... it was special," said Ms. Mathers.

"She's more than a teacher, she's a great friend and person overall," said Becker. "It's a nice thing to feel that you've made a difference," said Ms. Mathers.