I've recently experienced two revelations about the passage of time.

First, my high school class celebrated its 40-year reunion.

Second, my great-nephew, Jack, the fourth oldest of five, started kindergarten last week. He and his family live in Tennessee, where the school year starts and ends earlier than here.

As for it being 40 years since I walked out of Brien McMahon High School for the last time, my former classmates gathered for a reunion in the spring. I didn't go. I would have liked to see some of the class again, but I just couldn't afford the ticket price. But maybe, subconsciously, I actually couldn't face up to the fact that 40 years is a long time, especially when I realize that some of those classmates are grandparents. Just as startling was how many from the class of 400 or so graduates have died -- more than 25, and those names are the ones the organizers could confirm.

As for Jack, his beginning his formal education is probably more difficult to fathom. I have only vague memories of Jack being a newborn, and now he's 5 and off to school. His father said he cried once he arrived at the school, but came home excited. Seeing photos of him on his first day brought back lots of memories of my time in school.

I, too, cried on my first day of kindergarten, and I still remember some of the smells -- Oreo cookies (always my snack) and modeling clay.

Some of our recent August mornings have been chilly, reminding me of the start of a new school year.

More than 10,000 Fairfield schoolchildren return to the classroom on Thursday. Fairfield is touted as having one of the best school systems, drawing people to move here. It's good, but there are others that are better.

Some people will say that the only way to have an excellent school system is by financially supporting it. More money brings more rewards, they may contend.

I don't buy it.

The keys to a good school system, in my mind, are dedicated teachers and willing students.

I never was fond of school, primarily because of my shyness. I was never a joiner, leaving team and group activities to the popular kids, and I wasn't an over-achiever. My grades were passable.

But I did give it my best shot.

I learned too late that I should have been more diligent and interested in school work -- although, if I have to say so myself, I turned out OK. I applied myself more when I entered college, but my greatest education has come from my career, my peers and books.

If I can impart any message here, it would be to encourage kids -- and adults, for that matter -- to read.

Students should remember that school opens up to them advantages they won't get anywhere else -- lessons about the world, themselves and other people. And teachers should remember that they are responsible for giving students the tools to succeed.

Have a good year.

Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at hinessight@hotmail.com. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.